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Full text of "A memorial of Horatio Greenough, consisting of a memoir, selections from his writings, and tributes to his genius"

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, 


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern 

District of New York. 

R. Craighead, Printer, 
53 Vesey Str& t. 



Catalogue op "Works, 

pa ob 



^esthetics at "washington, 
Social Theories, 
American Art, 
American Architecture, , 
Kelatiye and Independent Beauty, 
The Trumbull Gallery, . 
Burke on The Beautiful, 
Criticism in Search of Beauty, 
Structure and Organization, . 
The Cooper Monument, . 


An Artist's Creed, . 
Fragments, .... 






vi Contents. 



Essay on the Statue of Washington, by A. H. Everett, . 215 
A Visit to Greenough's Studio, from " Scenes and Thoughts 

in Europe," 226 

Meeting of Artists at Rome, . . . . . . . 232 

To the Group of The Angel and Child, by "Washington 

Allston, 238 

To the Same, 239 

To the Statue of Medora, by Richard H. Dana, . . . 240 

To the Statue of Washington, by H. T. Tuckerman, . . 241 

To the Chanting Cherubs, by Richard H. Dana, . . . 243 
Monody on the Death of Horatio Greexough, by George 

H. Calvert, . 244 


M E M I R. 

Although the creations of the artist are his best monument, 
when the spirit in which he works transcends the limits of a 
special vocation, and associates him with the progress of society, 
and the happiness of his friends, a catalogue raisonne of what 
he has left in marble or colors, we feel to be an incomplete 
record of his life. The recent death of our earliest sculptor has 
caused so wide and sincere a grief that it becomes not less a 
sacred duty than a melancholy pleasure to trace his career, 
gather up the tributes to his genius, and endeavor to delineate 
the features of his character ; and it is at the request of those 
more dear to him, as well as from a vivid sentiment of affection 
and regret, that I have prepared this inadequate memorial of 

A life that all the muses decked 

"With gifts of grace that might express 
All-comprehensive tenderness, 

All subtilizing intellect: 

10 Memoir. 

Heart-affluence in discursive talk 

From household fountains never dry ; 
The critic clearness of an eye, 

That saw throucrh all the Muses' walk : 

Ko longer caring to embalm 

In dying songs or dead regret, 
But like a statue solid-set, 
And moulded in colossal calm.* 

Horatio Greenough was born in Boston, Massachusetts, 
September 6, 1805. His father belonged to that respected 
class of merchants whose integrity, enterprise, and intelligence, 
half a century ago, justly gave them a degree of consideration 
which is almost unknown at the present day. Comparatively 
few in number, and active in the political and social life of the 
town, they almost created public opinion, and were remarkable 
for individuality of character not less than a tone of mind above 
and beyond the mere spirit of trade. This was evinced in the 
careful manner in which their children were brought up, and the 
intellectual privileges afforded them, the sacred interest attached 
to home, and the superiority of the local schools. The mother 
of Greenough is a native of Massachusetts, endowed with the 
conscientious affection and vigorous intellect that are so honor- 
able a distinction of the genuine New England matron. He 
was one of several children, and shared with them the educa- 

* Tennyson's In Memoriam. 

Memoir. 11 

tion both of public and private seminaries, and of the domestic 

The instinct of genius discovers amid circumstances appa- 
rently inauspicious, the means and incentives for its develop- 
ment. In the community where Greenough was born and 
passed his early years, there existed a prevalent taste and more 
than one noble example to encourage the votary of letters ; 
Stuart's masterpieces, family portraits by Copley, a few choice 
originals and many fine copies from the old masters, as well as 
the presence of native artists of more or less skill and fame, 
offered a stimulus to the cultivation of drawing and painting; 
the system of popular education, and the intellectual tone of 
society, were also highly favorable to individual culture in its 
general relations ; but the art of modelling in clay was rarely if 
ever practised, the specimens of sculpture were few, and only 
a strong natural bias could have so early directed Greenough's 
aspirations towards the art. Having a decided sense of form, 
a love of imitating it, and a mechanical aptitude which kept 
his knife, pencil, and scissors continually active, he employed 
hours in carving, drawing, and moulding toys, faces, and wea- 
pons, by way of amusing himself and his comrades. I have 
seen a head evidently taken from an old Roman coin, executed 
upon a bit of compact plaster about the size of a penny, admi- 
rably cut by Greenough with a penknife and common nail, 
while a schoolboy, seated upon the door-step of one of his 
neighbors. The lady who observed this achievement, pre- 
served the little medal with religious care ; and was the first to 

12 Memoir. 

give the young sculptor a commission. It was for her that he 
executed the beautiful ideal bust of the Genius of Love. This 
propensity soon took a higher range. It was encouraged 
by the mechanics and professional men around him, whose 
good-will his agreeable manners and obvious genius propi- 
tiated. One kind artisan taught him the use of fine tools; a 
stone-cutter, of more than ordinary taste, instructed him to 
wield a chisel ; benevolent librarians allowed him the use of 
plates, casts, and manuals ; a physician gave him access to 
anatomical designs and illustrations ; and Binon, a French 
artist, known by his bust of John Adams in Faneuil Hall, Bos- 
ton, encouraged him to model at his side. Thus, as a mere 
schoolboy, did Greenough glean the rudiments of an artistic 
education without formal initiation. With eclectic wisdom he 
sought and found the aid he required, while exploring the 
streets of his native town ; one day he might be seen 
poring over a folio, or contemplating a plaster copy of a 
famous statue ; and, on another, exercising his mechanical 
ingenuity at the office of Solomon Willard, whose family name 
yet stamps, with traditional value, many an old dial-plate in 
New England ; now he eagerly watches Alpheus Cary as he 
puts the finishing touch to a cherub's head on a tombstone ; 
and, again, he stands a respectful devotee before Shaw or 
Coggswell, waiting for some treasured volume on the process 
or the results of his favorite art, from the shelves of Harvard 
and the Athenaeum. Some of his juvenile triumphs are still 
remembered by his playmates — especially a pistol ornamented 

Memoir. 13 

with relievo flowers in lead, a series of carriages moulded in 
bee's-wax, scores of wooden daggers tastefully carved, a lion 
coucbant, modelled with a spoon from a pound of butter, to 
astonish his mother's guests at tea, elaborate card-paper plans 
for estates, and, as a climax to these childish yet graceful expe- 
riments, a little figure of Penn cut in chalk from an engraving 
of his statue in the Port-Folio. 

There is no truth more sustained by the facts of conscious- 
ness, than that the mind assimilates only its legitimate nutriment. 
The artist, the hero, and the lover seem hardly conscious of 
any element of life, save that which ministers to their idiosyn- 
crasy ; and it is in these law r s of character, and not in any external 
appliances, that we must seek a true philosophy of life. The 
real-estate broker, as he passed the home of the young sculptor, 
saw but a certain number of feet of ground, and perchance 
speculated on its value; but the ardent gaze of the boy was 
only conscious of a statue of Phocion that stood in the garden. 
The mystery of that figure, the process of its creation, the 
law of its design, were the great problems of his dawning intel- 
ligence; he was sensible of a relation to the sphere of human 
activity represented by that image. It was more to him than 
the animated forms in the street, more than the printed charac- 
ters of his hornbook, more than an academic degree. It was 
a nucleus for his reveries, a hint to his ingenuity, a prophecy 
of his life. It kept bright and palpable to his young imagina- 
tion the idea of being a sculptor, and though the language of 
State St. Long Wharf, and even the old South Church gave no 

14 Memoir. 

confirmation to the oracle, — to him its silent eloquence was 
none the less impressive, for his nature had an element of the 
Greek as well as the Puritan, which asserted itself in spite of 
time and place. 

This strong tendency for art did not, however, alone charac- 
terize his mind. The graces of scholarship were equally- 
native. At school and college he excelled in the classics, and 
exhibited a command of language and perception of the 
beauties of expression, such as usually indicate the future orator 
and poet. It is recorded that no classmate excelled him in 
verbal memory ; and when quite a boy, be used to recite a 
thousand lines of English verse, at a time, without error or 
hesitation. Fortunately, too, his physical development kept 
pace with his mental activity. He was a proficient in all 
manly exercises. Indeed, that peculiar zest of action which 
belongs to organizations at once nervous and muscular, never 
ceased to inspire him. A good horseman, swimmer, pedestrian 
— he seemed to enjoy his sensitive and athletic, not less than 
his mental being; and when, at the age of sixteen, he entered 
Harvard University, in appearance and intellectual promise, he 
was the ideal of a gifted youth. It is remarkable that while 
his family had given no direct encouragement to his artistic 
plans, and made it a condition of their future realization, that 
he should pass through the usual academic training, he found 
at Cambridge, the highest and most valuable inspiration as a 
votary of art, yet experienced. There, at the house of Mr. 
Dana, he became acquainted with Washington Allston, who 

Memoir. 15 

soon, and, as it were, by the law of nature, became his master ; 
not that there was any recognised connexion of the kind be- 
tween them, but an affinity of genius, a mutual worship of the 
beautiful, and an earnest purpose quite apart from and above 
those around them, — bound together in the highest sympathy, 
the mature, religious artist, and the enthusiastic youth. 
Lono* afterwards when applied to for some biographical data, 
he answered ; " A note to Allston's life might tell all of me that 
is essential." In one of his letters from Italy, at a later period, 
he declares — " Allston was to me a father in what concerned my 
progress of every kind. He taught me first how to discrimi- 
nate, how to think, how to feel. Before I knew him I felt 
strongly but blindly, and if I should never pass mediocrity, I 
should attribute it to my absence from him, so adapted did he 
seem to kindle and enlighten me, making me no longer myself, 
but, as it were, an emanation from his own soul ;" and on his last 
return to America, he said with great emotion to a friend, that 
the only thought which cast a shadow over his heart, was that 
Allston was no more. 

A classmate, with whom he was intimate, intended to become 
a physician, and, while an undergraduate, began his medical 
inquiries. The two young men, one for a professional, and the 
other for an artistic object, engaged with zeal in anatomical 
investigations. The sister of this college friend of Greenough, 
remembers the ardor and mutual interest with which they 
carried on this pursuit, — often bringing anatomical preparations 
to the house, and always impatient to return to Cambridge 

1G Memoir. 

before the evening of their weekly holiday, in order to hear 
Allston's conversation. It was a habit with him to visit his 
friend Edmund Dana on Saturdays ; the two students occupied 
rooms in the house of the latter gentleman, whom they always 
called " the master," on account of his serene wisdom and fine 
perception in art and letters; and to hear the two men, whom 
they most deeply reverenced, talk, was to them at once inspira- 
tion and knowledge beyond the teachings of the University — 
the invaluable episode of their academic life. 

It was rare in those early days and in that latitude to find a 
genuine lover of art; as a career the practical and commercial 
spirit of the people repudiated it ; and among the educated, pro- 
fessional life combined with the honors of literature and states- 
manship, yielded almost the only prizes of ambition. Artists were 
therefore comparatively isolated ; and we can readily imagine the 
pleasure with which a painter at once so benign and highly en- 
dowed as Allston would welcome to his own sphere another with 
a mind so finely tempered and prophetic of excellence as Green- 
ough. Accordingly the best hours of the latter's college-life 
were those passed with Allston ; from him he caught the most 
elevated ideal of art, a sense of its dignity, a courage to face 
its inevitable discipline, and a faith in its great rewards. This 
intercourse gave consistency to Greenough's aims and new 
vigor to his resolution ; it was also a source of the highest im- 
mediate enjoyment. A few perhaps of the friends of either 
yet recall the scene presented, on a moonlight evening of sum- 
mer, when they were the central figures of a charmed gro up 

Memoir. 1*7 

on the piazza, — around them the glimmering foliage, dark sward, 
and bright firmament ; — the spiritual countenance and long sil- 
very hair of Allston, wearing the semblance of a bard or prophet, 
and the tall agile figure and radiant face of his young disciple, 
both intent upon a genial theme. Those hours were memora- 
ble to the casual auditors ; and to Greenough they were 
fraught with destiny. His nature was essentially sympathetic ; 
example and personal communion taught him infinitely more 
than books. He required heat as well as light to inform and 
mould his mind, and the friendship and conversation of such 
an artist as our great painter, at this most susceptible epoch 
of his life, could not but give a new impetus and a sanction to 
his genius. 

There was an exuberance and variety in his youthful mind 
that charmed elder companions, and awoke in them a pro- 
phetic interest. The routine of college life was, indeed, subor- 
dinate, in his estimation, to the practice of art and the enjoy- 
ment of gifted society ; and yet, by virtue of a natural aptitude 
and an honorable spirit, he fulfilled the allotted tasks with 
eminent fidelity, and excelled in all branches save mathema- 
tics, for which he had an instinctive dislike. In the intervals 
of these studies he cultivated his private tastes with an assi- 
duity that surprised his most intimate associates. One of 
these, now a venerable man, has told me, with a glow of affec- 
tionate pride, of a landscape that Greenough painted while 
an under-graduate, of some beautiful sonnets he then com- 
posed, and of an excellent fac-simile he wrought of a bust of 


18 Memoir. 

Napoleon. While such evidences of genius won for him the 
high regard of his own, a handsome person, animated conversa- 
tion, and graceful manners, rendered him a favorite with the 
other sex ; yet amid the calls upon his time, and the constant 
exercise of his powers, incident to such a position, the primary 
direction of his mind never wavered. Sculpture was the art to 
which he had long since resolved to dedicate his life ; and to 
this were given the hours not absorbed by his college duties 
and his friends. He modelled, at this period, a bust of Wash- 
ington, from Stuart's portrait, and others of his own contempora- 
ries, from life. A proposal for designs for the monument on 
Bunker Hill having been issued, Greenough constructed a model 
in wood which was at once selected by the committee, although 
the prize they offered the successful competitor was never 
bestowed upon him who was fully entitled to it. The interior 
arrangement of the work was planned by another, but the form, 
proportions, and style of the monument were adopted from 
Greenough's model ; and the simple, majestic, and noble struc- 
ture that designates the early battle field of the American 
Revolution, is thus indissolubly associated with his name. His 
preference for the obelisk seems to have been confirmed by 
subsequent observation ; and the reasons he assigns for this 
choice, in one of his papers on art, are certainly not less forcible 
than just. In anticipation of his residence abroad, he also 
began, while at college, the study of the Italian language, and 
could speak it with considerable fluency months before he 
embarked for Europe. Another instance of this facility in 

Memoir. 19 

acquiring a foreign tongue occurred many years later, when, on 
the occasion of a visit to Graefenburg for the health of his 
family, he became an excellent German scholar. Italian, how- 
ever, continued to be his favorite language, and during the last 
few days of his life, only its soft vowels escaped his fevered lips. 
From diffidence he wished to avoid the delivery of his part, 
which had not only been awarded but written ; and towards 
the close of his senior year, with the approbation of the college 
government, he availed himself of a favorable opportunity and 
embarked for Marseilles. Thence he proceeded to Rome. It 
was at that period uncommon for an American student of art 
to take up his residence there ; and Greenough was the pio- 
neer of his country's sculptors. He engaged with zeal in the 
usual course of observation and practice, drawing and model- 
ling from life at the Academy and from the antique at the 
Vatican. His habits of self-denial and simple tastes were con- 
firmed by this systematic discipline. " I began to study art in 
Rome," he observes ; " until then I had rather amused myself 
with clay and marble than studied. When I say that those 
materials were familiar to my touch, I say all that I profited 
by my boyish efforts. It was not until I had run through all 
the galleries and studios of Rome, and had under my eye the 
genial forms of Italy, that I began to feel Nature's value. I 
had before adored her, but as a Persian does the sun, with my 
face to the ground." Here he enjoyed the friendship of Thor- 
waldsen, and his companion at this time was R. W. Weir, the 
painter ; they occupied rooms in the house known as Claude's, 

20 Memoir. 

on the Pincian Hill. After long and severe application, 
a severe illness induced by the malaria, so prostrated Green- 
ough as to induce his return home ; and his faithful brother 
artist not only watched over him abroad, but accompanied him 
to the United States. The voyage completely restored his 
health, and a visit of several months among his friends was not 
unprofitably occupied in executing several busts of his distin- 
guished countrymen. At Paris, also, he remained awhile to 
execute a bust of Lafayette. " The bust of David," says 
Cooper, in allusion to this work, " is like, it cannot be mis- 
taken, but it is in his ordinary manner — heroic or poetical; on 
the other hand, the bust of Greenough is the very man, and 
should be dear to us in rjroportion as it is faithful. As Lafayette 
himself expressed it, ' one is a French bust, the other an Ame- 
rican.' " On his return to Italy, Greenough passed many 
weeks at the quarries of Carrara, a fine school for the practical 
details of statuary ; and then proceeded to Florence, where he 
took up his abode. It was here, in the autumn of 1833, that I 
first met him, and I quote from impressions soon after recorded : 
" On one of the last afternoons preceding my embarkation, I 
had sat a long hour opposite a striking, though by no means 
faithful portrait of Greenough, while one of the fairest of his 
kindred spoke fondly of him, and charged me with many a 
message of love for the gifted absentee. On a table beneath 
the picture stood one of the earliest products of his chisel. I 
glanced from the countenance of the young sculptor, to the 
evidence of his dawning genius ; I listened to the story of his 

Memoir. 21 

exile ; and thenceforth he was enshrined high and brightly 
among the ideals of my memory. With rapid steps, therefore, 
the morning after my arrival in Florence, I threaded the narrow 
thoroughfare, passed the gigantic cathedral, nor turned aside 
until, from the end of a long and quiet street, I discerned the 
archway which led to the domicile of my countryman. Asso- 
ciations arose within me, such as the time-hallowed and novel 
objects around failed to inspire. There was a peculiar charm in 
the idea of visiting the foreign studio of a countryman devoted 
to the art of sculpture, to one who was fresh from the stirring 
atmosphere of his native metropolis. Traversing the court and 
stairway, I could but scan the huge fragments of marble that 
lined them, ere entering a side door, I found myself in the pre- 
sence of the artist. He was seated beside a platform, contem- 
plating an unfinished model, which bore the impress of recent 
moulding. In an adjoining apartment was the group of the 
Guardian Angel and Child — the countenances already radiant 
with distinctive and touching loveliness, and the limbs exhibit- 
ing their perfect contour, although the more graceful and deli- 
cate lines were as yet undeveloped. One by one I recognised 
the various plaster casts about the room — mementos of his 
former labors. My eye fell on a bust which awakened sea and 
forest pictures — the spars of an elegant craft, the lofty figure of 
a hunter, the dignified bearing of a mysterious pilot. It was 
the physiognomy of Cooper. And yon original, arch-looking 
gentleman \ Ah ! that can be no other than Francis Alexan- 
der. Surely those Adonis-like ringlets, so daintily carved, 

22 Memoir. 

belong to one whom it is most pleasing to remember as the 
writer of some exqui>ite verses under the signature of Roy. 
No one can mistake the benevolent features of Lafavette, or 
the expressive image of the noble pilgrim-bard ; or fail to linger 
in the corridor, over the embodiment of one of his fairest crea- 
tions — the figure of the dead Medora. In other studios of the 
land I beheld a more numerous and imposing array ; but in 
none could I discover more of that individuality of design and 
execution which characterizes native intellectual results. 

" Coleridge's favorite prescription for youthful atheism was 
love ; on the same principle would we commend to the admi- 
ration of the scoffer at a spiritual philosophy, the unwavering 
and martyr-like progress of genius towards its legitimate end. 
In this characteristic, the course of all gifted beings agrees. 
They have a mission to fulfil ; and lured betimes, as they may 
be, by the flowers of the wayside, and baffled awhile, as is the 
destiny of man, by vicissitude — from first to last the native 
impulse, the true direction, is everywhere discernible. In the 
case of Greenough, this definiteness of aim, this solemnity of 
determination, if we may so call it, is remarkably evident. 
Often did he incur the penalty of tardiness, by lingering to 
gaze at a wooden eagle which surmounted the gateway of an 
old edifice he daily passed — thinking, as he told me, how beau- 
tiful it must be to carve such a one. 

" "When he arrived in Genoa he was yet in his minority. 
He entered a church. A statue, more perfect than he had ever 
beheld, met his eye. With wonder he saw hundreds pass it 

Memoir. 23 

by, without bestowing even a glance. He gazed in admiration 
on the work of art, and marked the careless crowd, till a new 
and painful train of thoughts was suggested. ' What !' he 
soliloquized, ' are the multitude so accustomed to beautiful sta- 
tues that even this fails to excite their passing notice ? How 
presumptuous, then, in me, to hope to accomplish anything 
worthy of the art !' He was deeply moved, as the distance 
between himself and the goal he had fondly hoped to reach, 
widened to his view ; and concealing himself among the rub- 
bish of a palace-yard, the young and ardent exile sought relief 
in tears. ' O genius !' I mused, going forth with this anecdote 
fresh from his lips, - how mysterious thou art ! And yet how 
identical are the characteristics of thy children ! Susceptible 
and self-distrusting, and yet vividly conscious of high endow- 
ments — slow to execute and quick to feel — pressing on amid 
the winning voices of human allurements, or the wailing cry of 
human weakness and want — as pilgrims bent on an errand of 
more than earthly import, through a night of dimness and 
trial, and yet ever beholding the star, hearing the angel-choir, 
and hastening on to worship !' 

" On one of the most beautiful evenings of my visit, I accom- 
panied Greenough to the studio where he proposed to erect his 
statue of Washington. It was a neat edifice ; which had for- 
merly been used as a chapel ; and from its commodious size 
and retired situation, seemed admirably adapted to his purpose. 
The softened effulgence of an Italian twilight glimmered 
through the high windows, and the quiet of the place was 

24 Memoir. 

invaded only by distant rural sounds and the murmur of the 
nearest foliage in the evening breeze. There was that in the 
scene and its suggestions, which gratified my imagination. I 
thought of the long and soothing days of approaching summer, 
which my companion would devote, in this solitary and plea- 
sant retreat, to his noble enterprise. I silently rejoiced that the 
blessed ministry of nature would be around him, to solace, 
cheer, and inspire, when his energies were bending to their 
glorious task: — that when weariness fell upon his spirit, he 
could step at once into the luxurious air, and look up to the 
deep green cypresses of Fiesole, or bare his brow to the moun- 
tain wind, and find refreshment ; — that when doubt and per- 
plexity baffled his zeal, he might turn his gaze towards the 
palace roofs and church domes of Florence, and recall the tro- 
phies of art wrought out by travail, misgivings, and care, that 
are garnered beneath them; that when his hope of success 
should grow faint, he might suspend the chisel's movement, 
raise his eye to the western horizon, and remember the land 
for which he toiled."* 

Greenough then occupied the wing of a somewhat dreary 
palazzo near the Porto Pinti ; the window of his studio, how- 
ever, commanded views of an extensive garden ; and one of the 
rooms was fitted up in the American style. Here, beside a 
wood fire, on winter evenings, it was his delight to greet two 
or three friends around the tea-table, speculate on the news 

* Italian Sketch Book. 

Memoir. 25 

from home, criticise works of art, and tell stories. I recall, 
with melancholy pleasure, «m any of these occasions. He would 
often occupy himself with pen or crayon while thus enjoying a 
social hour ; sometimes covering a sheet of paper with the 
remembered faces of the absent and the loved ; and, at others, 
making* elaborate and carefully wrought designs for a basso- 
relievo or statue. He had srffodies enough for twenty years' 
use, partially sketched at the time of his death. A fine speci- 
men of his facility and precision as a draughtsman is before 
me as I write — his parting gift when I left Florence. It 
represents Orestes tormented by the Furies ; the clear, fine out- 
line and statuesque effect, as well as the relief of the figures, 
are given with the finish of an excelleut engraving. Not less 
pleasant in the retrospect, are the walks we used to take, some 
years later, during a remarkably fine autumn. He beguiled 
the way with humorous anecdotes, descriptions of men and 
places, and remarks on art and letters. There was a vivacious, 
liberal, and often brilliant tone in those by-way conversations 
that indicated a mental affluence in the highest degree win- 
some and satisfactory. We were usually accompanied by a 
remarkably fine English greyhound, a great pet of Green- 
ough's, called Arno, whose intelligent gambols always amused 
him ; this favorite dog lived to a green old age, and his marble 
effigy, in an attitude peculiar to him, from the chisel of his 
master, now ornaments the librarv of the Hon. Edward 

Comparatively isolated however in the pursuit of his art, at 

26 Memoir. 

a distance from home, and destitute of that encouragement 
which the natives of Europe bestow upon their artistic country- 
men, Greenough's first years in Florence were passed with 
little but dreams of hope, and the consciousness of improve- 
ment to sustain him. There were periods, at this time, when 
the young sculptor was depressed and nervous ; — as month 
after month flitted by and brought him no commissions. The 
Americans who visited Italy, delighted in his society and 
respected his self-devotion ; but few had the means, and very 
few the taste and liberality to give him substantial aid. He 
occupied himself upon busts, designs, and studies ; and realized 
that in art, as in life, " they also serve who only stand in wait." 
It was about this period, however, that his heart was cheered 
by the reception of anonymous pecuniary aid. He never dis- 
covered the source of this kindly benefaction ; but circum- 
stances justified him in the conviction, that it was sent from 
his native city. To evidence his gratitude he had recourse to 
an artistic device worthy of his genius. He sent to a friend in 
Boston a basso-relievo in marble, representing a student intent 
upon his book; a lamp burns before him, and a hand mysteri- 
ously thrust from the cloud above, is feeding it with oil. The 
design is well executed ; and the unknown benefactor must 
have thrilled with pleasure at so graceful an acknowledgment. 
He always referred with grateful emotion, also, to the gleam 
of sunshine which encouraged him, at this crisis, in the friendship 
of our late renowned novelist — Cooper. The American sym- 
pathies of this distinguished man, as well as his personal affec- 

Memoir. 27 

tion, were excited by Greenough. One day they paused in one 
of the saloons of the Pitti palace, before a capo d 1 opera of 
Raphael, and the artist pointed out to his companion the fine 
drawing exhibited in two little angelic figures in the foreground, 
in the act of holding an open book, and singing. Cooper inquir- 
ed if a subject like this was not well adapted to sculpture ; 
afterwards one of his daughters copied the figures ; and the 
result of their mutual interest in the design, was an order from 
Cooper for a group, which in a few months Greenough execut- 
ed in marble. It was afterwards exhibited in America, under 
the name of the " Chanting Cherubs ;" and not only proved a 
most acceptable immediate encouragement, but served to in- 
troduce the artist to his countrvmen. In allusion to this sub- 
ject, the artist observes in a letter written some years after ; 
" Fenimore Cooper saved me from despair after my return to 
Italy. He employed me as I wished to be employed ; and 
up to this moment has been as a father to me." 

This was the first group in marble executed by an American. 
The scope of the work is obviously limited. It consists merely 
of two nude cherubs. Yet a careful scrutiny will reveal those 
niceties of execution which proclaim the true artist. One of 
the figures is planted on its little feet, and its position is up- 
right ; his bosom heaves with a gentle exultation as if inspired 
by the song ; his companion, quite as beautiful, is slightly awed ; 
one has ringlets that suggest more strength than the smooth 
flowing hair of his brother, whose face is also longer and more 
spiritual and subdued ; he is more up-looking, less self-sustain- 

28 M e M i a • 

ed. A most true and delicate principle of contrast is thus un- 
folded in the two forms and faces. The celestial and the child- 
like are blended ; we realize, as we gaze, the holiness of infant 
beauty ; a peaceful, blessed charm seems wafted from .the 
infantile forms, whose contour and expression are alive with 
innocent, sacred, and, as it were, magnetic joy. Here we 
have the poetry of childhood, as in the Medora the poetry of 

The grace, truth to nature, and infantile beauty of the Che- 
rubs were at once and warmly recognised. It was an inciden- 
tal result of this labor of love that Greenouo-h obtained the 
government order to execute his statue of Washington. The 
pledge he had thus given of ability, and the earnest represen- 
tations of Allston, Cooper, and Everett, were the means of this 
important enterprise. To the sculptor's honor these timely 
services were never foro-otten. His last work was a bust of his 
illustrious friend, the American novelist, which he proposed to 
cast in bronze,, at his own expense, and" place in the field 
where stands the old mill in Newport — one of the scenes of 
his novel of tire " Red Rover." He also took frequent counsel 
with the friends of the departed author in regard to erecting a 
suitable monument to his name, and among his papers is an 
elaborate design for the work. The example of recognition 
thus commenced was soon followed, and numerous orders 
reached the now prosperous exile. Among the beautiful ideal 
works he executed within the few succeeding years was 
Medora — illustrative of Byron's memorable description of the 

Memoir. 29 

Corsair's bride after death ; of which the greatest praise is to 
say that the marble embodies the verse : 

In life itself she was so still and fair, 

That death with gentler aspect withered there ; 

And the cold flowers her colder hand contained, 

In that last grasp as tenderly were strained 

As if she scarcely felt but feigned a sleep, 

And made it almost mockery yet to weep ; 

The long dark lashes fringed her lids of snow, 

And veiled — thought shrinks from all that lurked below ; 

Oh ! on the eye death most exerts his might, 

And hurls the spirit from her throne of light ! 

Sinks those blue orbs in that long lost eclipse, 

But spares, as yet, the charm around the lips — 

Yet, yet they seemed as they forbore to smile, 

And wished repose — but only for a while ; 

But the white shroud and each extended tress, 

Long, fair — but spread in utter lifelessness, 

Which, late the sport of every summer wind, 

Escaped the baffled wreath that strove to bind : 

These — and the pale pure cheek, became the bier — 

But she is nothing — wherefore is he here?* 

There is a mingled pathos and delicacy in the shape and 
attitude of this figure which touches the heart and awes the 
imagination. The lines of the face have that inflexible repose 
which indicates the sleep of death ; the neck and bosom are 

* The Corsair. Canto iii. 

30 Memoir. 

eloquent of feminine grace; the peculiar grasp of the hand 
which still retains the flowers, and the manner in which the 
drapery folds over the limbs, are in exquisite harmon) T with the 
subject. A chaste beauty, entire proportion, and affecting inte- 
rest characterize the Medora. The " Angel and Child" is another 
favorite work. Its conception is singularly beautiful, and it is 
realized to the life. The artist's idea was to represent a child 
received and guided by its angel companion into the mysterious 
glories of heaven. The difference between the human and the 
spiritual is exhibited in the baby outline of the child, rounded, 
natural, and real — and the mature celestial grace of the angel — 
his look of holy courage and his attitude of cheer, while the reve- 
rence and timidity of his newly-arrived brother are equally obvi- 
ous. In these subjects the high imagination and native senti- 
ment of the sculptor are evident. His taste for English poetry 
caused him to select with discrimination and indicate with faci- 
lity the most apt illustrations both with pen and chisel. With 
the latter he imaged the most vague yet effective of Pope's 
female portraits — Heloise : 

•'Dear, fatal name! rest ever unrevealed, 
Nor pass these lips in holy silence sealed; 
Hide it, my heart, within that close disguise 
"Where, joined with God's, his loved idea lies." 

In the portraits of children, whether from actual life or his 
own fancy, Greenough excelled. Two boys playing with a 
squirrel, and two others engaged in a game of battledore, we 

Memoir. 31 

recall as remarkable specimens both of spirited portraiture and 
felicitous action. His earliest ideal work was a statue of 
Abel, modelled during his first visit to Rome — and his last, 
" the Rescue." It was executed at Florence for the govern- 
ment, designed in 1837, and completed in 1851. It represents 
the conflict between the Anglo-Saxon and aboriginal races. 
The chief figure is an American settler, an athletic man, in a 
hunting shirt and cap, rescuing a female and her infant from a 
savage who has just raised his tomahawk to murder them ; the 
effect is wonderfully fine and noble. The hunter has ap- 
proached his enemy unexpectedly from behind, and grasped 
both his arms, holding them back, and in such a manner that he 
has no command of his muscles, even for the purpose of freeing 
himself. It is nearly two years since this admirable work was 
completed. The government ordered that one of the vessels of 
our squadron in the Mediterranean, when on its return to the 
United States, should take it on board. Greenough came to 
this country with the view of superintending its erection. 
After long delay, a vessel was sent to Leghorn, but on account 
of the hatchway being too small to admit the group, it was left 
behind ; but is now understood to be on its way in a merchant 

In the meantime his statue of Washington had been 
finished. Of the merits of this work the criticisms of two of 
its most intelligent admirers, reprinted in this volume, afford 
the best evidence. It was undertaken with a painful sense of 
responsibility, designed with great study, and after long delibe- 

32 Memoir. 

ration ; it occupied the best part of eight years, and was erected 
under circumstances unfavorable to its immediate appreciation. 
The just complaints of the artist, in one of the selected papers, 
as to its present condition, should meet with respectful notice 
from those in authority. 

" Among the most charming creations of Mr. Greenough's 
chisel," says Edward Everett, in a letter from Italy in 1841, 
" is the statue of a child of three years old, the daughter of 
Count Revicksky, the Austrian Minister at Florence. The little 
girl is represented as seated on a bank of flowers contemplating 
a butterfly, which has just lighted on her raised forearm. The 
intentness with which she regards the symbol o£ the immortal 
soul, happily indicates the awakening of an infant understand- 
ing. So entirely absorbed is she in contemplation of the object 
which has attracted her attention, and so complete is her 
repose, that a lizard creeps fearlessly from his hole in the bank 
of flowers. The gaze of the child is full of that mixture of 
simplicity and thought, with which children sometimes give us 
such startling assurance of the unfathomed mystery of our 
being." In the same letter he adds, " I regard Mr. Greenough's 
Washington as one of the greatest works of sculpture of 
modern times. I do not know the work which can justly 
be preferred to it, whether we consider the purity of the taste, 
the loftiness of the conception, the truth of the character, or, 
what we must own we feel less able to judge of, accuracy of 
anatomical study and mechanical skill." The rationale of this 
work is admirably set forth in the artist's letter to the govern- 

Memoir. 33 

merit explaining the principles of the design. Another work 
that amply fulfils all the requirements of a severe taste, and is 
yet crowned with an ideal beauty, is a head of Our Saviour. It 
is just enough larger than life to derive from the contour and 
features a sublimity of effect. The expression is profoundly 
calm, but the serenity is that of conscious power tempered with 
a touching benignity. Its characteristic point is an infinitely 
suggestive charm, at once holy, pure, and majestic. The bust 
is fixed upon a coiled serpent whose head is bowed in front ; 
and the whole conception is eloquent with the highest moral 
significance. It invites contemplation, and is instinct with de- 
vout sentiment. The beautiful simplicity of the idea is only 
equalled by the chaste and noble execution. Greenough enter- 
tained, indeed, the highest view of the function of religious art, 
but, at the same time, recognised its true use. Jn a letter 
referring to this work he says, " I am not aware that any Ame- 
rican has, until now, risked the placing before his countrymen 
a representation of Our Saviour. The strong prejudice, or 
rather conviction of the Protestant mind has, perhaps, deterred 
many. Not behind the most jealous in deprecating the abuse 
of images in places of public worship, I think, nevertheless, 
that the person and face of Our Saviour is a legitimate subject 
of art, because, although our conception must fall short of 
what the heart of the Christian looks for, yet you will allow 
that we may offer to many an imperfect instead of a mean or 
grovelling idea which they have drawn from other sources. 
The prayers and hymns of the most pious are as far unworthy 


34 Memoir. 

the perfection to which they are addressed, as the lights and 
shadows of the artist ; yet both may be accepted as fervent 
asj^irations after the good and beautiful. It is a mistake to 
suppose that the artist, because he stops working, thinks his 
task perfect ; he says only — behold the subject proposed to me 
as the art which is in me can give it." 

•My next meeting with Greenough was in the autumn of 
1837. On a bright cool day in October, the Cascine of Flo- 
rence was thronged. Lines of open carriages extended along 
the park ; under the chestnuts groups of pedestrians sauntered ; 
the dead leaves flew along the turf; the Arno gleamed in the 
sun. The scene was at once rural and festive. In every 
barouche were gaily-dressed ladies, and the cheerful hum of 
conversation was suddenly quieted as all hastened to the 
inclosed o£en space between the trees, to witness a race. This 
was a rare entertainment originated by the English residents of 
Florence. The bright tints of the jockeys' costumes, the sleek, 
elegant, and spirited horses, and the hilarity of the company, 
accorded with the bracing air and cheerful sunshine. In the 
midst of the crowd I met Greenough. It was a few days after 
his marriage with Miss Louisa Gore of Boston. In a subse- 
quent conversation we referred to the prosperous termination 
of those days of suspense and anxiety which, on my first visit, 
had shadowed his career. In the brief interval he had received 
many commissions, achieved a reputation, and was now settled 
happily in a congenial home. The auspicious change in my 
friend's prospects identified itself with the gay scene in which 

Memoir. 35 

our intercourse was resumed ; and it struck my fancy as sym- 
bolic of the happiness that crowned his life. 

Florence continued to be his residence until his final return 
to this country. In the meantime he frequently visited Ger- 
many, Paris, and other parts of Europe, and came home to 
superintend the erection of his statue of Washington. His 
house at Florence soon became the favorite resort of Ameri- 
cans; and all who enjoyed the hospitality of the Palazzo 
Baciocchi, now recall the delightful hours spent there with grate- 
ful yet melancholy interest. The habitues, indeed, must feel 
with one of his neighbors who, in a recent letter, alluding to 
Greenough's death, says, "He was a true, high-spirited, and 
independent man, and I feel, in losing him, that something is 
permanently deducted from my life." 

Here were passed the happiest years of his life ; and any one 
who shared, even for a time, his existence in the Tuscan capi- 
tal, soon realized how just was his partiality for that adopted 
home. If less rich in the trophies of art than Rome, there is 
more unity of effect in the architecture, galleries, and scenery. 
In his daily walks for many years, Greenough here became 
familiar with the noble relics of the middle ages, sombre but 
massive ; the grand simplicity of the Strozzi and Pitti palaces, 
the beautiful cornice of the Ricardi, Bruneleschi's gigantic 
dome and airy tower, the graceful bridges that span the Arno, 
and the lovely gates of San Lorenzo ; objects ever fresh and 
charming to an artist's eye. The memorials of individual 
genius, too, always suggestive to his cultivated mind, of epochs 

36 Memoir. 

in the history of art, of long and patient study, and of the lof- 
tiest aspirations, were constant themes to him of encouraging 
meditation and eloquent discourse. In Florence are gathered the 
most characteristic legacies of Angelo and Cellini, and the city 
and its environs are intimately associated with Dante, Galileo, 
Boccacio, Vespucci, Macchiavelli, and Milton. A promenade 
along the river in view of the unrivalled sunsets that bathe the 
distant Apennine range with gold and purple, an hour's gossip at 
the cafe, visits to the galleries and studios, and an occasional 
evening at the opera, are constant and available recreations. 
A few years since a new square was laid out in Florence, on 
the Fiesole side of the Arno, between the Porta San Gallo and 
the Porta al Prato. It is called the Piazza Maria Antonia, in 
honor of the present Grand Duchess. The corner lot was pur- 
chased by Greenough, and upon it he erected a studio which is 
a model of its kind, and unsurpassed in Europe. All the rooms 
are on one floor, built with great strength and a fine ornamental 
stone work on the exterior, having in the centre the cypher G. 
Attached to the structure is a beautiful garden; within is a 
spacious and admirably lighted exhibition-room — near by the 
sculptor's private studio, a large apartment for the workmen, a 
gallery of plaster casts, a vestibule hung with pictures, a noble 
rotunda, leading by a short flight of steps to the garden, and a 
charming library. This studio is a monument of Greenough's 
intelligent taste and aesthetic culture ; and it is deeply to be 
regretted that it cannot be preserved as an artistic temple to 
his memory. 

Memoir. 37 

In the Autumn of 1851 Greenough returned to the United 
States with his family. He came ostensibly to erect his group 
of " The Rescue," now completed and packed for exportation ; 
but his departure from Florence was hastened by the political 
state of Europe ; the myrmidons of Austria thronged the streets 
of that beautiful capital ; the press was under strict censorship, 
and a system of espionage interfered with all freedom of speech, . 
domestic privacy, and social activity — a contrast, at once sad 
and humiliating to the hopeful era which had so recently 
closed. Upon returning to his residence one day, Greenough 
found several cavalry soldiers quartered on his premises. He 
instantly wrote to the American Consul at Leghorn, and 
obtained a diplomatic office of sufficient consideration to relieve 
him of this annoyance; but so many instances of despotic 
injustice daily came under his notice, that they, in a measure, 
destroyed the charms of a hitherto genial home, and he longed 
once more to breathe the free air, and hold communion with 
the free minds of his native country. He believed also that he 
could now be more useful at home, and that circumstances 
there were more favorable to the artist. 

There are certain peculiarities noticeable on returning to 
this country after a long absence, by all observant minds, which 
Greenough not only opposed in conversation but practically 
repudiated. He wondered at the extreme deference to public 
opinion, at the absurd extravagance in living, and the prevalent 
want of moral courage. The true artist's simplicity in the 
externals of life was visible in him always ; his individuality 

38 Memoir. 

was not set aside in conformity to fashion ; he manifested reve- 
rence for age ; he was impatient of the substitutes for comfort, 
fellowship, and truth invented by what is called society ; he 
contemned that habitual view of general questions and human 
welfare through the contracting lens of self-interest which per- 
vades a mercantile community; and it was the essential in 
character, experience, and social economy, and not the tempo- 
rary and artificial, which he recognised. 

I was agreeably surprised to perceive the confidence with 
which he unfolded his plans, and the generous zeal that led 
him, at once and earnestly, to advocate so many projects of 
taste and utility. It was remarkable to what an extent his 
personal influence acted even upon our most utilitarian and 
busy citizens. He took me aside one morning in Broadway, 
and whispered the result of his visit among the leading com- 
mercial men of New York, in behalf of a statue of Washington 
designed to ornament Union Square. The sum of twenty -five 
thousand dollars was subscribed in sums of five hundred. It 
may be safely asserted that no other man but Greenough could, 
in so brief a space, have won the sympathy and " material aid" 
of so many stern votaries of commerce. 

I was interested also in the change produced in him by 
domestic ties. As he had once talked of art he now talked of 
life. His affections had led him to reflect upon human des- 
tiny ; and I found him as eloquent and as ingenious in the 
discussion of the religious sentiment and educational theories 
as he was wont to be when intent upon the vocation of the 

Memoi'k. 39 

artist. However imaginative in some of these speculations, lie 
was remarkably in earnest and reverent of nature as the true 
mother, whose laws were to be devoutly studied and implicitly 
obeyed ; in her statutes as well as handiwork he beheld the 
finger of God ; and justly ascribed no small degree of existent 
evil to the system of intervention by which this divine light 
is obscured or perverted. 

His intimate acquaintance with the state of parties, and the 
course of governments abroad, as well as his decided liberal 
sentiments, constantly impelled him, at this time, to political 
discussion ; and whoever engaged with him in these colloquies, 
whether convinced by his arguments or not, was informed by 
the array of facts he cited, and charmed by his graphic powers 
of description and brilliant analysis. He was inspired also by 
that spirit of enterprise which marks even the speculative 
opinions and social life of our country. Looking around him 
with the eye of an artist and the heart of a patriot, he was 
conscious of a new scope and motive, both for his genius and 
sympathies. He had matured a system of architecture founded 
on the idea of the appropriate, and adapted to the climate and 
exigencies of the country. He was prepared to suggest and 
illustate the adornment of our cities with national statuary. In 
many of the details of social economy he was the advocate of 
wise and practical reforms ; and had much to say that was 
fresh and noble, if not available, upon education, hygiene, 
society, art, literature, and manners. There was a remarkable 
communicative instinct in Greenough ; and the results of his 

40 Memoir. 

studies and experience were the property of his friends. A dis- 
interested mental activity was the distinctive and invaluable trait 
of his character. There is no doubt that if his life had been 
preserved, he would have proved a most attractive and useful 
teacher through the rostrum and the press, in departments of 
thought and action comparatively neglected among us. The 
principles of art he could unfold with the highest intelligence ; 
and, without an harmonious and complete system, he had 
attained to many just conceptions of the philosophy of life. 

Greenough's temperament was both sanguine and nervous — 
a combination more favorable to a receptive and sympathetic, 
than a self-possessed and tranquil character. Accordingly he 
was of an excitable nature, and required for the healthful ex- 
ercise of his mind and wise enjoyment of life, at once a genial, 
free, and harmonious sphere. Artist-life in Italy, so calm, 
absorbing, and undisturbed, was fitted to his nature. The 
amenities of a domestic circle, the pleasant stimulus of in- 
tellectual companionship, the wholesome occupation of body 
and mind, were to him a peculiar necessity. The restless, 
bustling, ever changeful existence that infects the very atmo- 
sphere of this country were sometimes oppressive and irritating. 
He felt the absence of that equability and routine, that keeps 
brain and heart so well balanced in the old cities of Europe. 
He missed the gradations by which the temperature seems to 
adapt itself to the sensitive frame. In the climate, the society, 
the mode of life, he found it almost impossible to escape the 
hurried, alternating, fitful spirit of the land. It seemed as if 

Memoir. 41 

the genius of enterprise around had infected his mind with a 
tendency to action at once impulsive and uncertain. He con- 
stantly broached new plans ; and sought to attach others to 
his own aims. The transition from a serene to an excitable 
social atmosphere, from a conservative to a progressive country, 
was too abrupt for a nature both sensitive and aspiring. He 
caught the spirit of the times, and was eager to throw his 
energies into the stream of popular activity. There was soon 
obvious not so much an inconsistency of thought as a want of 
correspondence between his avowed sentiments and pur- 
poses and his actions. It was evident that his mind had be- 
come undulv excited, as is so often the case with the novice 
in American life. But in this instance the physical re- 
sult was unusual and inexpressibly sad. A brain fever ter- 
minated, after a few days' illness, the life of Greenough. It may 
be regarded as a fortunate circumstance, that the attack occur- 
red at his house in Newport, and while he was surrounded by 
those most near and dear to him. He was subsequently re- 
moved to the vicinity of Boston for the benefit of medical 
treatment. While the life-struggle was going on, we can ima- 
gine the agony of suspense that brooded over his household 
at Newport, where severe illness kept his dearest companion. 
The fatal issue was anticipated by the Italian servants — two 
Tuscan women who had accompanied the family on their 
return. With that passionate grief characteristic of the race, 
they burst forth one wintry afternoon with the declaration, 

that the Padrone would surely die, because a large owl had 


42 Memoir. 

descended the chimney and was found in the parlor; the 
incident awakened their latent superstition, and the bird of 
ill-omen was deemed the certain precursor of death. A few 
hours afterwards came the sad tidings, but they were mitigat- 
ed, as far as such desolation can be, by the fact that his suffer- 
ings were inconsiderable, and the delusions incident to his 
malady, of a gay rather than a despairing nature. His 
strength gradually yielded to the cerebral excitement, and he 
expired on Saturday morning, the 18th of December, 1852. 

He had been naturally impatient, on his return to America, to 
settle himself in an agreeable locality with his studio arranged 
to his taste, a fine subject in the process of execution, and his 
family and household gods around him. But owing to the 
unjustifiable delay of the government in sending for his group 
at Leghorn, to the uncertainty which obtained in regard to 
the two or three important works he proposed to execute, and 
his unavoidable indecision as to a permanent residence, — the 
year which intervened between his arrival in the United States, 
and his death, was passed in various places and occupations, 
and attended with much care and discomfort. He enjoyed, 
however, by this very state of things, many opportunities of 
social intercourse ; and the intervals spent with his family at 
Newport, during the last summer, were periods of unalloyed 

It was at this time and, as it were, with a prophetic sentiment 
that he wrote : — " I am arrived at that ' mezzo del camming 
that half-way house, where a man sees, or thinks he sees, both 

Memoir. 43 

ways. If my head is not ripe it is whitening — I begin to love 
to sit alone — to look upon the skies, the water and the soft 
green — the face of the mighty mother ! I feel that she thus 
sweetly smiles on me, more sweetly than formerly, because she 
means to call me home to her own bosom. I would not pass 
away and not leave a sign that I, for one, born by the grace 
of God in this land, found life a cheerful thing, and not that 
sad and dreadful task with whose prospect they scared my 

It was here, on the beautiful sea-shore, that I once more 
renewed an association commenced so many years ago in Italy ; 
and never, since the hour of our first acquaintance, did Green- 
ough appear more full of noble aims, more kindled by the 
inspiration of nature and society, and more abounding in intel- 
lectual sympathy. It is difficult to realize that the agile and 
well-developed form that sported with such grace amid the bil- 
lows, is now lifeless ; that the nervous frame so delicately 
strung no more responds to vital influences ; and that the voice 
attuned to a key so sympathetic, and freighted with such 
wealth of mind, is hushed for ever ! By a singular coincidence 
the last time I saw Greenough, he took me home to pass a 
rainy evening, and as he sat at work upon a crayon head, we 
revived together the memories of those happy days in Italy. 
It was early in autumn. The gay visitors at Newport had 
nearly all returned to the cities, and the ties of friendship were 
drawn closer from the more frequent and uninterrupted oppor- 
tunities of association. Imperceptibly the hours flitted away ; 

44 Memoir. 

and I was surprised to find it near midnight when I rose to 
depart. I remember, during my homeward walk, to have 
mused of Greenough's versatility and prolific ideas during that 
interview, — which I so little imagined would be the last. He 
had, in those few hours, run through every phase of conversa- 
tion. With the skill of a consummate improvvisatorc he had 
told a story in the dramatic and artistic way peculiar to him, 
painting the scene to the eye, giving the very sensation of the 
experience ; he had analysed, with tact and discrimination, 
several characters of our mutual acquaintance; he had ably 
discussed a question of public concern, and he had evolved 
several bon-mots. In a word, his talk was argumentative, pic- 
turesque, anecdotical, earnest, philosophic, and humorous ; and 
this without the least effort or formality, but through the natu- 
ral suggestions of the moment. He made me realize anew his 
varied knowledge and his independent mind. I felt that he 
was capable of the greatest social and artistic usefulness. I 
recalled the consistency of his friendship, his kind leave-taking, 
and cheerful anticipation of " another such evening soon ;" and 
these vivid recollections deepened the sorrow with which, a few 
weeks later and in a foreign land, I was startled with the news 
of his death. 

The outline I have given of Greenough's career as an artist, 
affords but an inadequate idea of his genius and character. It 
is the distinction of the latter, where they possess originality 
and power, always to suggest more than they actualize. As a 
sculptor his executive ability fell short of his conceptions ; and 

Memoir. 45 

as a man his influence was quite as individual and extensive as 
his artistic fame. Indeed he was endeared to his friends and 
useful to the world by virtue of larger gifts than belong exclu- 
sively to the practical artist. In respect to personal efficiency 
— that charm and gift that diffuses itself by the magnetism of 
association and the attrition of mind, Greenough held a memo- 
rable place in the estimation not only of a vast number but of 
widely different minds. He combined public spirit with the 
qualities that insure good fellowship, and the facility of the 
man of the world with the attainments of a liberal scholar, to 
a degree and in a manner altogether rare even in this age of 
generalization. His original endowments and his wide expe- 
rience equally contributed to this result. He went forth in 
early manhood from a cultivated but formal society, where he 
had received an excellent domestic and intellectual training, 
urged by a natural love of art in a special form ; but, by virtue 
of his broad intelligence and generous sympathies, while mainly 
devoted to his profession, he became an intellectual cosmo- 

The classical education he had received, and his early advan- 
tages, made him familiar with the historical relations of his art. 
He could fully realize its indirect value and its characteristic 
development. As a national language he understood its sig- 
nificance — grand and inscrutable in Egypt, unrivalled in Gre- 
cian beauty, primitive in Central America. The fables of 
mythology, the monumental glory, the poetry and the truth 
which sculpture embodied in different eras and countries, he 

46 Memoir. 

knew as a scholar and appreciated as an artist. Contrary to 
the usual effect of extensive knowledge, this acquaintance with 
the facts and meaning of sculpture did not make him a devotee 
of any school ; he thoroughly enjoyed the masterpieces of the 
chisel, and expatiated, with earnest intelligence, upon each sepa- 
rate trophy of the sculptor, however different in kind. I have 
heard him alike eloquent over the radiant Apollo of the Vati- 
can and the brooding Lorenzo of the Medici chapel, the Lions 
of Canova and the Perseus of Cellini, a Bacchante by Barto- 
lini, a group of Gibson's, one of Flaxman's linear wonders, an 
apostle of Thorvvaldsen, and a bust of Powers. It was in the 
variety of his comparisons and the richness of his illustrations 
that he evinced the extent of his culture. The majority of our 
artists have been self-taught men, chiefly dependent upon a 
special talent. Greenough's general knowledge proved a valu- 
able and attractive facility in his expositions of art. The 
remarkable absence of extravagance in all his artistic produc- 
tions was another result of his disciplined taste. The simpli- 
city that belongs to true superiority had become with him a 
principle both of judgment and action. During his early stu- 
dies in Italy, Homer was frequently in his hands. In literature, 
art, and life, his taste was singularly just; not a trace of affec- 
tation or fantasy is visible in any of his designs or statues. 
The classical standard he thoroughly appreciated, while, at the 
same time, the details of expression in nature were his constant 

He was also a student of art in general as well as a proficient 

Memoir.- 47 

in sculpture. He had enjoyed a very wide range of observa- 
tion and a large acquaintance with artists. There was no sub- 
ject upon which he had thought more earnestly or could dis- 
course with more zest and eloquence than the philosophy of 
art. The principles of architecture, modes of living, arrange- 
ments of society — in a word, the wise organization of the means 
provided by nature for the ends desirable for man, was to him 
a theme of the deepest significance. With a truly fraternal 
sympathy for his race, instead of regarding his pursuit as exclu- 
sive and chiefly intended to gratify individual taste, he advo- 
cated art as an element of humanity, a universal benefit, and a 
source both of high social utility and poetic faith. Accord- 
ingly, with his pen and his speech, he urged the claims of art 
upon his countrymen, not as a professor but as a brother, 
striving always to make apparent the essential interest and the 
national dignity of the subject, and this course he pursued with 
the intelligent mechanic not less than the fashionable circle. 

Few authors by profession are better equipped for literary 
art than was Greenough ; had not sculpture been his chosen 
pursuit, he would have doubtless adventured in the field of let- 
ters. By education, verbal memory, and remarkable power of 
expression, he was admirably fitted to excel as a writer. In 
Europe, he had acquired entire facility in the use of the 
modern languages. He had a natural love and discriminating 
taste for poetry ; and, as has been truly said by one of his 
friends, was an artist in the telling of a story. Occasionally he 
contributed to the journals of the day, usually in order to dis- 

48 Memoir. 

sent from some popular but unphilosophical criticism on art, or 
to invoke public attention in favor of a neglected work of 
genius ; it was thus usually an impulse of generosity or a dic- 
tate of justice that led him to take up the pen. His friends, 
however, were desirous to see it wielded with a more elaborate 
and definite purpose by a hand so skilful ; and during the last 
year of his life he was frequently occupied in writing. His 
thoughts were not cast in a formal shape, but jotted down as 
occasion and mood suggested. Many of these desultory efforts 
he submitted to his literary acquaintances, and they united in 
admiration of their freshness, beauty, and acumen. They were 
subsequently in part arranged in a book form, but in conse- 
quence of the various suggestions he received and the modifica- 
tions he intended, the plan was never wholly completed. It is 
chiefly from these fragments of a work that I have gleaned the 
specimens contained in this volume. They are mainly essays 
which indicate an unfinished achievement ; but they are none 
the less precious and interesting as a record of his opinions and 
sentiments, and illustrations of his style. 

The strictures upon art as it actually exists in, and is essen- 
tially related to our republie, are bold, honest, and wise ; they 
have a practical value, and are often expressed with earnestness 
and grace. A busy yet cheerful spirit of utility, a genuine 
patriotism and love of beauty characterize them ; and the 
lectures and correspondence should be now gathered up not 
only as appropriate memorials but as the endeared legacy of 
their author. " His oonversation," observes an experienced and 

Memoir, 49 

gifted author, in a recent letter, " was both brilliant and deep ; 
and his writing so remarkable for its realism and its occasional 
splendor, that I conceived the highest hope of what he should 
do, and cause others to do, by his speech and pen as well as by 
his chisel." 

Greenough was a consistent republican. His alternate resi- 
dence in Europe and America, only confirmed his sympathy 
with the people and his faith in their claims. His steadfast, 
ardent loyalty to the principles of his own country, is the 
more remarkable in a man whose tastes were refined, and whose 
associations fully exposed him to the blandishments of rank 
and fortune. A spectator of, and to some extent, a participa 
tor in the remarkable events of 1848, his trust and hope were 
never subdued by the subsequent re-action. His " faith was 
large in time." A witness of the siege of Vienna, and an 
actor in the popular demonstration that celebrated the advent 
of liberty in Florence, he was entirely cognizant both of the 
condition of the masses, and the power of the conservative 
party ; but he also had the discrimination and the love of his 
race which induces a calm and earnest trust in the ultimate 
triumph of freedom. To hear an American defend the encroach- 
ments of European rulers upon popular rights, or discredit the 
national impulse, — excited in Greenough warm indignation. 
He used to startle, and perhaps offend the complacent mem- 
bers of what he called the " Tory party" in his own country, 
by the vigor of his animadversion or the sting of his wit. 
And yet no advocate of republican sentiment was ever more 

50 Memoir. 

free from prejudice. It was on the wide ground of humanity 
that he took his position ; and an aristocratic table was often 
the scene of his most eloquent protest. 

Another rare and precious trait was his nobility of mind. 
The most attractive phase of genius is its coincidence with 
magnanimity. So genuine was his love of art that it made 
him self-oblivious. When a brother artist, his superior in ex- 
ecutive ability for the most profitable department of sculpture, 
became his neighbor, he not only gave him a fraternal wel- 
come, but cheerfully yielded his best workmen, and choicest 
marble, as well as his advice and encouragement, to facilitate 
and cheer the stranger. When he planned a monumental 
trophy, it was almost invariably based on the idea of a division 
of labor that included the services of others. To discover and 
proclaim merit was his delight ; the glowing terms in which 
he advocated the claims of unappreciated or modest talent, 
seldom failed to kindle sympathy ; from the rank of our 
native artists no one could have been less spared in this re- 
gard. His recognition was not limited to achievement, but 
extended to latent powers. He was one of that invaluable 
minority whose perception goes beneath the surface of charac- 
ter and the accidents of expression ; and perhaps of all his 
friends he valued chiefly " the poet who never wrote." 

The partiality of artists and men of letters for Greenough's 
society was a natural result of his fine social qualities. He 
came at once into relation with those who aspired to high cul- 
ture or lived for intellectual ends. The frank hospitality with 

Memoir. 51 

which he received another's thought, and expressed his own, 
rendered companionship with him easy and genial. It was not 
requisite to accept his theory or coincide in his opinions in 
order either to enjoy or profit by his society. Like Montaigne 
he seemed rather to prefer a brisk encounter to an assimilation 
of minds ; and among those most warmly attached to him 
there was the greatest diversity of character and sentiment. It 
was enough for him that an individual possessed courteous, 
brave, intelligent, or generous qualities, to awaken respect or 
sympathy. "With the independent thinker, the lover of beauty, 
the student of art, he was always at home, and oblivious of 
those considerations of nationality, creed, or party that limit 
and chill the associations of less Catholic minds. He entered 
with the same relish into the by-way vagaries of Cole, Morse, 
or any of his brother artists as they roamed over the Roman 
campagna or the valley of the Arno, as he discussed a literary 
question with the classic Landor in his Villa garden, sympa- 
thized with Nicollini in his deep patriotic regrets, contributed 
to the table-talk of the Marquis Capponi, listened to memorable 
reminiscences as he moulded the benign features of Lafayette, 
discussed American character with Dr. Francis, or social reform 
with Emerson. 

Among his friends were a Hungarian nobleman, a Francis- 
can friar, an American Presbyterian divine, and an Italian poet. 
His genius was eminently social. As we retrace the path of 
his life, it appears crowded with endeared and venerated forms ; 
and we feel that the highest privilege won by his talents and 

52 Memoir. 

character, was that of free intercourse with superior minds. 
These select intelligences quickened without interfering with his 
nature. He was keenly appreciative, and quick to detect the pro- 
mise as well as the fruition of excellence. I remember accom- 
panying him on a visit to a sculptor who had just completed 
an equestrian statue, and desired his frank opinion. The faults 
of the work were so apparent and predominant that as he cri- 
tically surveyed it, I began to wonder what single encouraging 
trait he could, without violence to truth, recognise. His first 
words were — " ce molto vita" and the vitality and spirit of the 
conception alone redeemed it. The zeal with which he wel- 
comed and befriended Powers on his first arrival in Italy was 
delightful to contemplate; and few of his countrymen who 
have gone abroad to follow art as a vocation, have failed to 
experience his cheerful sympathy. Perhaps this readiness to 
acknowledge and foster talent, the spontaneous interest which 
a marked character or a gift of intellect excited in Greenough, 
was the secret of his power to elicit and refresh the thought of 
his companion. 

By this contact with leading minds in various countries, by 
habitual observation of nature and art, and especially through 
the exercise of genuine mental independence, he disciplined and 
enriched his intellect in every sphere. True to his American 
principles, he recognised no aristocracy but that of nature; 
broad in his views of life, he rose superior to all jealousy or 
narrowness; bold and free in opinion, he uttered his honest 
sentiments with candor and enthusiasm ; and thus, in the cha- 

Memoir. 53 

racter of an artist, he brought an ever fresh accession of infor- 
mation, wit, and geniality to the social circle, and shed abroad 
the light and glow of a noble, kindly, and intelligent man. It 
is in this view that we feel the void occasioned by his death, 
and realize the loss his country has sustained ; for art, though 
a grand and beautiful, is not a universal language, and when 
her gifted votaries are also priests at the altar of humanity, 
they are doubly mourned and honored. 


1. A statue of Abel, modelled in Rome, in 1826, but never 
executed in marble. 

2. Statue of Byron's Medora. For R. Gilmore, of Balti- 

3. Group. The Chanting Cherubs. For J. Fenimore 

4. The Ascension of the Infant Spirit. A group of an Infant 
and Cherub. 

5. Group. Portraits of two Children of David Sears, play- 
ing with a squirrel. 

6. Statuette. The Genius of America. For J. Hoyt, of 
New York. 

7. Portrait statue of Miss Grinnell. 

8. Portrait Statues of two Youths, sons of J. Thompson, of 
New York. 

9. Monument to Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs. For Miss Gibbs of 

10. Statue of Washington, by order of Congress, for the 

Catalogue of Works. 55 

The sum, twenty thousand dollars, voted by Congress, was 
intended to be an honest compensation for this work. The 
amount was the same as that paid by Massachusetts to Chantry 
for his statue of Washington, the size of life. Greenough, 
determined to spare neither time nor expense to make his 
work worthy of the country and himself, made it colossal 
(twice the size of life), involving an expense threefold beyond 
what it would have cost of the natural size. 

The embellishments of the chair have a significance which 
often escape observation. The statuettes of Columbus, and an 
Indian Chief, supporting the arms of the chair, and the trident, 
have found favor as being obviously illustrative of our country's 
history. But the bas-reliefs of the Rising Sun on Apollo's cha- 
riot on the one side, and the infant Hercules strangling a ser- 
pent on the other, are, by many, looked upon as mere " clas- 
sical" embellishments, independent of the subject. Were they 
no more than this, they would be disfigurements instead of 
adornments. The artist originally designed to have inscribed 
two lines from an ode of Virgil ; — under the Apollo, Nunc 
nascitur lucidus or do ; and under the Hercules, Incipe, parve 
puer, cui non risere parentes. These verses would have inter- 
preted the bas-reliefs. Greenough finally omitted them, be- 
cause sculpture should speak its own language so distinctly as • 
to need no aid from letters. 

11. Child seated on a bank, intently gazing at a butterfly 
that has just lighted on the back of its hand. For a Hunga- 
rian nobleman. 

66 Catalogue of Works. 

12. Statuette of Venus Victrix. For John Lowell, and pre- 
sented by him to the Boston Athenaeum. 

13. Colossal Group, for the Capitol, by order of Congress. 
This work, which was finished in July, 1851, occupied the 

artist eight years, besides a delay of four years occasioned by 
his not being able in all that time to obtain a block of Serra- 
vezza marble suitable to his purpose. It consists of four figures, 
a mother and child, an American Indian and the father. This 
group illustrates a phasis in the progress of American civiliza- 
tion, viz., the unavoidable conflict between the Anglo-Saxon 
and aboriginal savage races. The figures of the mother and 
child were entirely remodelled in the years 1846 and '47. 

14. Statue of the Angel Abdiel retiring from the assemblage 
of rebellious Angels ; from Milton's Paradise Lost. 

15. Monument to his friend Giusti, the Italian poet; erected 
at Pescia, Tuscany. 

16. Bas-relief, representing an artist whose labors are sus- 
pended by the failure of the light by which he is working. 
He is seated in an attitude of pensive dejection, while a hand 
from a cloud supplies oil to the lamp. 

17. Bas-relief of Castor and Pollux. 

18. Venus, contending for the golden apple. It is of 
heroic size, that of the Venus of Milo. This statue was 
much admired in Florence, and Browning, the English 
poet, urged Greenough to send it to the World's Fair, 
in London. 

It was modelled entirely in plaster of Paris (as was also the 

Catalogue of Works. 57 

second group of the mother and child) by a new process. 
"The merit of this invention seems to be shared between 
Greenough and Powers. They commenced about the same 
time to make trials in this material, and by interchange of 
experiences and views the method was perfected. The gain to 
artists by this invention is two-fold ; plaster of Paris does not 
expand like clay, and there is no need of the precarious and 
expensive process of casting." 

19. Ideal Bust. Our Saviour crucified. 

20. Two Ideal Busts of Heloise. 

21. Ideal Bust of Lucifer. 

22. Ideal Bust of the Graces. 

23. Ideal Bust. The Genius of Love. 

Besides the above enumerated statues and bas-relief, he exe- 
cuted a large number of busts ; among these were portraits of 
John Adams and of John Q. Adams, Henry Clay, Mrs. R. 
Gilmor, Josiah Quincy, Sen., S. Appleton, Jonathan Mason, 
Thos. Cole, the late celebrated landscape-painter, N. P. "Willis, 
the Marquess Gino Capponi, for many years a personal friend 
of Greenough, and latterly Prime Minister of Tuscany, John 
Jacob Astor, Cooper, and others. 




[Greenough commenced a series of Lectures on Art during the 
last months of his life ; two of these had been written and delivered, 
and copious notes for others were found among his papers ; while 
abroad he also wrote several essays on this and kindred subjects ; 
and man} 1 of his letters are valuable and interesting ; these it is pro- 
posed to collect in a subsequent volume. The selections now 
published will indicate the scope of his inquiries, and the originality 
of his views, and serve as a foretaste of more elaborate specimens.] 


An American citizen, who has gone abroad to study a 
refined art, presents himself before his fellow-countrymen at 
disadvantage. To the uninitiated, his very departure from 
these shores is an accusation of the fatherland. If he sail away 
to strike the whale on the Pacific, or load his hold with the 
precious teeth, and gums, and sands of Africa, it is well ; but 
to live for years among Italians, Frenchmen, and Germans, for 
the sake of breathing the air of high art, ancient and modern, 
this is shrewdly thought by many to show a lack of genius, 
whose boast it is to create, and we are often asked triumphantly 
if nature is not to be found here on this continent. They who 
thus reason and thus feel, are not aware of the peculiar position 
of the aspirant to artistic activity in these States. They see 
that lawyers and statesmen, divines, physicians, mechanics, all 
are here developed, are said to be home grown, nay, often also 
self-made. They forget that all the elements of our civilization 
have been imported. They forget that our schools and col- 
leges, our libraries and churches, are filled with the most mate- 

G2 ./Esthetics at Washington. 

rial proof, that Greek and Roman thought is even now modi- 
fying and guiding our intellectual development. A moment's 
attention will enable them to perceive that the American stu- 
dent of art only seeks to effect for his own department of 
knowledge a like transfer of rudimental science, and at this late 
day, make the form of our culture harmonious with its essential 
and distinctive character. 

We are still imbued, deeply imbued, with the stern disregard 
of everything not materially indispensable, which was gene- 
rated by ages of colonial, and border, and semi-savage life. 
We have imported writings on art in abundance, and there is 
scarcely a scholar in the land who cannot wield the terms of 
dilettantism as glibly as a European professor ; but unfortu- 
nately for us, the appreciation of an sesthetical theory without 
substantial art, is as difficult as to follow a geometric demon- 
stration without a diagram. It is sterile and impotent, as is all 
faith without works. 

If the arts of design could have simply remained in a nega- 
tive state, like seeds buried in autumn, to await the action of a 
more genial season, we should be justified in postponing, even 
now, their cultivation. But like the Bourgeois gentilhomme, 
who talked prose from his boyhood without being aware of it, 
we have been compelled both to design and to adorn, and our 
efforts, from their nature, must remain monuments of chaotic 
disorder in all that relates to ./Esthetics. In a word, we have 
negative quantities to deal with, before we can rise to zero. I 
do not mean to say that the beautiful has not been sought and 

^Esthetics at Washington. 63 

found amongst us. I wish, and I hope to show, that we have 
done more, in a right direction, than has been appreciated ; 
much in a wrong direction, that must be examined and repu- 

I am sensible of the disadvantage under which I labor, in 
speaking of matters to which I have devoted my attention for 
many years. I regret that I have no such right to sympathy 
and to support as that set forth by the author of a recent work 
when he says, " I have no qualifications for a critic in art, and 
make no pretensions to the character. I write only for the 
great multitude, as ill instructed in this sphere as I cheerfully 
admit myself." When the writer of that profession shall have 
learned what the main qualifications for a critic on art really 
are, I cannot believe that he will cheerfully renounce them ; 
and far as I am from a personal acquaintance with the great 
multitude, I cannot believe that one " as ill instructed as them- 
selves" is the exact person whom they would depute to deal 
with matters which, to say the least of them, require some 

It is the great multitude that has decided the rank of the 
statesmen, the poets, and the artists of the world. It is the 
great multitude for whom all really great things are done, and 
said, and suffered. The great multitude desires the best of 
everything, and in the long run is the best judge of it. I have 
said this much in relation to the sesthetical observations of this 
writer, because, though I generally sympathize with his views, 
and often admire the expression of them, I look upon the 

G4 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

ground lie here takes, as one too often taken — in itself untena- 
ble, and apt to mislead by an exaggerated expression of 
modesty. Substantially, it is analogous to the conduct of one 
who should commence by declaring that all men are free and 
equal, and go on to give orders to the right and left as to valets. 
Fain would I also lay claim to the title of self made man ; 
indeed, I graduated at Harvard, in 182-, which they who knew 
the school will allow was near enough self-making to satisfy 
any reasonable ambition. But since then I have been indebted 
to very many for light as for assistance. 

• If there were in our character or in our institutions, aught 
that is at war with art in the abstract, I for one would be silent, 
preferring the humblest labor, if any labor deserve the name of 
humbie, to the development of an influence adverse to Ameri- 
can freedom. I speak of art now, because I think I see that it 
is a want — a want widely felt, deeply felt — an intellectual want, 
a social want, an economical want — and that to a degree which 
few seem to suspect. I believe that these states need art as a 
visible exponent of their civilization.* They call for it as a sal- 

* In the speech of Mr. Smith, of Alabama, in explanation of a resolu- 
tion offered by him in relation to Kossuth, I find the following passage : 
"I will make another observation, and that is in reference to the idea 
of establishing republican governments in Europe. Kew governments 
there are constantly rising and falling, and they have been trying to 
establish republican governments for the last thousand years; have 
they ever succeeded? and why not? Because of their antiquities and 
their monuments, breathing, smacking, and smelling of nobility and roy- 
alty, and because half of the people are magnates." 

I take note of this remark, because I believe there is good, solid truth 

^Esthetics at Washington. 65 

vation from merely material luxury and sensual enjoyment, they 
require it as the guide and ornament of inevitable structure and 

Joyfully have the governing men of England, France, and 
Germany beheld in the United States that policy which has 
denied all national education, except for the purpose of war and 
trade. Joyfully have they seen the individual States equally 
blind to the swift coming requirements of this people ; and they 
have founded and perfected schools of design, of which the 
abler pupils are employed in illustrating the national history ; 
the lower talents fill the factory, the foundry, and the atelier, 
to fashion fabrics for ourselves. From Boston to New Orleans 
no house, no tavern, no bar-room, I had almost said, that does 
not give proof, by the tawdry spawn of European manufacture, 
of our tribute to their savoir /aire, and their appreciation of our 

in it. " Quoi si je pourrai fripponner quelque chose pour etayer mon 
pauvre petit livre!" I should have placed the magnates first in the 
list of obstacles to republican progress, but I will not quarrel about pre- 
cedence. The statesmen may be allowed to settle this matter. 

I rejoice to find that American legislators have found out the value 
and significance of monuments, and of antiquities in their political influ- 
ence. May we not expect that our civilization and our institutions will 
obtain this support from Congress ? I hope, in a subsequent paper, to 
urge this matter more fully. I will now merely state that there stands 
in the studio of Mr. Powers, at Florence, a statue of America, which is 
not only a beautiful work of art, but which "breathes, smacks, and 
smells" of Republicanism and Union. If placed conspicuously, by Mr. 
Walter, in one of the new wings of the Capitol, it would be a monu- 
ment of Union. The sooner it is done, the sooner it will become an 
" antiquity." 


66 ./Esthetics at Washington. 

taste. But what, it will be asked, lias the development of art 
to do with manufactures ? High art stands in relation to manu- 
factures and all the so-called lower trades, where high literature 
stands in relation to social and to civil life. Ask how much of 
the fruit of high culture and mental training reaches the public 
through the forum, the pulpit, and the diurnal press, and you will 
have the measure of the influence of pure art on structure and 
manufacture in all their branches. Who in England urged this 
matter upon the attention of Parliament, until the best models 
of Greece and Italy were placed within reach of every manu- 
facturing population ? The Board of Trade. That body caused 
to be translated from foreign languages, and illustrated by ela- 
borate drawings, the most approved works of Munich, Berlin, 
and Paris. They have ransacked, at great cost, the mediaeval 
magnificence of Italy, to find new forms, and add a grace to the 
products of their looms, their potteries, and their foundries. 
Does any statesman fancy that these governments have been 
invaded by a sudden love of the sublime and beautiful ? I 
believe that they who watch our markets and our remittances, 
will agree with me, that their object is to keep the national 
mints of America at work for themselves; and that the beau- 
tiful must, to some extent, be cultivated here, if we would avoid 
a chronic and sometimes an acute tightness of the money 
market. The statistics of our annual importation of wares, 
which owe their preference solely to design, will throw a light 
on this question that will command the attention of the most 
thrifty and parsimonious of our legislators. 

^Esthetics at Washington. 67 

In founding a school of art, we have an obstacle to sur- 
mount, viz. a puritanical intolerance thereof. The first work 
of sculpture by an American hand exhibited in this country, 
executed for the illustrious Cooper, was a group of children. 
The artist was rebuked and mortified by loud complaints of 
their nudity. Those infantine forms roused an outcry of cen- 
sure, which seemed to have exhausted the source whence it 
sprang, since all the harlot dancers who have found an El 
Dorado in these Atlantic cities, have failed to reawaken it. I 
say seemed to have exhausted it — but only seemed — for the 
same purblind squeamishness which gazed without alarm at the 
lascivious Fandango, awoke with a roar at the colossal naked- 
ness of Washington's manly breast. This fact will show how 
easy it is to condemn what is intrinsically pure and innocent, 
to say the least ; how difficult to repress what is clearly bad and 
vicious. They who speculate upon the corrupt tastes of a pub- 
lic, when they have learned that genteel comedy is neglected, 
that tragedy is unattractive, that galleries of painting and sta- 
tuary are unknown in a large and wealthy community, such 
speculators take their Bayaderes thither as to a sure market. 
They know that a certain duration of abstinence, voluntary or 
forced, makes garbage tolerable, and ditch water a luxury. I 
do not venture to hope that even high art will abolish " cakes 
and ale," but I trust before many years are elapsed no usee 
Terpsichore of Paris or Vienna will be able to show half a mil- 
lion as a measure of our appetite for the meretricious. 

I wish not to be misunderstood for a moment as recommend- 

6S .^Esthetics at Washington. 

ing a Smithsonian school, with a hierarchy of dignitaries in art. 
I have elsewhere stated my conviction that such a system is 
hostile to artistic progress. I desire to see working Normal 
schools of structure and ornament, organized simply but effect- 
ively, and constantly occupied in designing for the manufac- 
turers, and for all mechanics who need rcsthetical guidance in 
their operations — schools where emulation shall be kindled by 
well considered stimuli, and where all that is vitally important 
in building or ornament shall be thoroughly taught and con- 
stantly practised. I know not how far the limit of congres- 
sional action may admit the founding of such schools by the 
central government. Should it be impossible to interest Con- 
gress in the matter, I am not without hope that some, at least, 
of the State legislatures may effect it; and, failing this 
resource, I hope that associated individuals will combine for this 
object. I cannot but believe that a report, called for by Con- 
gress, on the amount of goods imported, which owe the favor 
they find here, to design, would show the importance of such 
schools in an economical point of view. I believe that such a 
report would show that the schools which we refuse to support 
here, we support abroad, and that we are heavily taxed for 

It surely cannot be asking too much that the seat of Govern- 
ment, where the national structures rise, and are yearly in- 
creasing in number and importance, should present a specimen 
of what the country can afford in material and workmanship, 
in design and ornament. If this were resolved on, a stimulus 

^Esthetics at Washington. 69 

would-be given to exertion, while the constant experience here 
acquired would soon perfect a school of architectural design. 

The defects of the stone of whicfi the Capitol was built, 
could have been no secret to Mr. Bulfinch. Had there existed 
a board, or a school, or any other responsible depository of 
architectural experience, we should not have witnessed the 
deplorable recurrence to the same quarries for the construction 
of the Patent Office and the Treasury buildings. The outlay 
in paint alone, to which recourse has been had in order to 
sheathe this friable material, would have maintained a school 
which would have saved us from the blunder, not to mention 
the great advantage we should have derived from its designs 
and its pupils. Had the amount expended in white lead been 
invested, a fund would have now accumulated sufficient to 
reface them all with marble. I am convinced that true 
economy would at this moment order the Potomac stone, 
wherever it has been used, to be immediately replaced by a 
better material. 

Setting aside, however, the question of economy, and look- 
ing at the question of propriety, can anything be more absurd 
than to expend millions upon noble pieces of masonry, and 
then to smear them with lead — thereby reducing them to a 
level with the meanest shingle palace 1 Stone among build- 
ing materials, standing 'where gold stands among metals, to 
paint stone is like covering gold with tin-foil. So far has this 
been carried, that even in the Rotunda, where no conceivable 
motive could exist for the vandalism, the entire masonry has 

*70 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

been painted, and that too of various tints, so that I will ven- 
ture to affirm that many carry away the idea, that the whole 
is but a piece of carpenter's work. The treatment of the 
Treasury buildings, where the granite basement has been 
painted of one color, the columns of a second, and the wall 
behind them of a third, where even the lamp-posts have been 
daubed with divers tints, like a barber's pole, is noticed with 
priceless naivete in an important public document as a neat 
piece of work. What shall we say of the balustrades, where 
massive iron bars have been driven bodily into the columns, 
as though a column in a first class building might be treated 
like a blind wall in the basest structure, and that, too, with- 
out a shadow of need ? What shall we say of the iron railings 
that obtrude upon the eye about the blockings of the Patent 
Office, and veil, with their inharmonious blackness, the organ- 
ization of that building ? What of the one slender chimney 
of red brick, which peers over the broken profile of the marble 
Post Office ? Will any adept in the science of construction 
explain why the gas light which is seen at the eastern 
entrance of the Capitol, was made to hang with so many feet 
of tiny pipe, and then secured by shabby wires driven into the 
columns ? Would any person conversant with the proprieties 
of building tolerate such a slovenly arrangement in a private 
house, or in a private stable, if columns formed a feature of 
that stable ? Do not such absurd and ignorant malpractices 
look as if a barbarous race had undertaken to enjoy the mag- 
nificence of a conquered people, and not known how to set 

^Esthetics at Washington. 11 

about it ? Does any one fancy that the uninstructed multitude 
does not feel these incongruities ? It is not so. As well may 
you hope to sin against grammar in your speeches, and 
against decency and self-respect in your dress or deportment, 
and expect that it will pass unobserved. 

The effect produced by the grounds and shrubbery in the 
neighborhood of the Capitol deserve a moment's attention. 
There is somewhat in flower beds and fancy gardening, with 
corbeilles of ephemeral plants, so out of all keeping with the 
character and functions of this edifice, as to give the spectator 
a painful sense that the idea of the adaptation of grounds to 
buildings has never recurred to*>those whose duty it was to 
look after these matters. Trees and verdure are beautiful, 
and flowers still more so, but they are impertinent adjuncts 
to the Capitol of the United States, and where they veil and 
obstruct the view of the facade, as at the Post Office, are insuf- 
ferable. The creeping vines that have been led over the arches 
which support the platform in rear of the Naval monument, 
are a grosser instance of misguided search after the picturesque. 
If these arches are properly constructed, the vines are imperti- 
nent, for they hide their articulation. "Whether well or ill 
built, the proximity of these vines is a destructive element, use- 
lessly added to the inevitable wear of the weather. Further, if 
the principle which guided their introduction here be a sound 
one, logical sequence and harmony call for their appearance in 
other like situations. 

The recent appointment of a gentleman of approved taste to 

72 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

superintend the arrangement of the public grounds, gives well 
founded reasons to hope that these, and the like unsightly 
anomalies, will disappear ; and that all, at least within his 
department, will be made in harmony with the character and 
purposes of the chief edifice of the country. 

The position of the group of Columbus and the Indian girl 
is anomalous and absurd ; anomalous, because it invades the 
front view of the portico, chokes the facade, and hides another 
statue by the same artist ; absurd, because it treats the building 
as somewhat on which to mount into conspicuous view, not as 
a noble and important vase which it is called humbly to adorn 
and illustrate. The statue *bf Washington is surrounded by 
dwarf cypress and clumps of rose bush. These are impertinent 
and ridiculous — impertinent because they hide the pedestal and 
obstruct the view of the inscription, thus overlaying the inten- 
tion of the monument, and that for the mere display of ephe- 
meral vegetation, a phenomenon, however attractive, not here 
in place — ridiculous, because they seem as if intended in some 
way to help and eke out the sculpture ; which, when a statue 
of this class requires it, must be done by replacing it with 
something worthy to stand alone. The grass within the rail- 
ing, if cut close, destroys the monumental effect, by the exhi- 
bition of frequent care ; if neglected, offends by its rank growth 
and decay. The railings which have been placed about the 
statues of the Capitol accuse a want of respect for the public 
property. They accuse it without remedying it ; for in spite 
of their protection, perhaps because of it, the statues of Colum- 

^Esthetics at Washington. 73 

bus and of Washington have received more injury in the few 
years that they have been so guarded, than many figures 
wrought before the birth of Christ have suffered in coming to 
us throuffh. the so-called dark ao-es. I have several times seen 
boys at play on the portico of the Capitol ; which, if right, 
makes it wrong there to place costly sculptures. If I protest 
against iron railings around statuary, it is because I believe they 
avail not for their object. I trust to the intelligence of the 
many to do justice to the artistic efforts made for their sake. 
In the end, I believe the people will be the best guardians of 
public works here, as they have proved themselves elsewhere. 
Four lamps have been placed around the statue of Washing- 
ton ; by night they light only the feet of the figure, by day 
they exactly obstruct two of the principal views of it. I doubt 
not that the person who so placed these lights meant to do the 
statue a service. He probably never heard of "the eight 
views" of a statue. These ever-jarring principles of magnifi- 
cence and economy — laying out millions for dignity, and deny- 
ing the thousands necessary to insure care, intelligence, and 
taste, in their conservation and exposition — produce a certain 
compound of pretension and meanness of effect, highly to be 
deprecated in great public works. I say highly to be depre- 
cated, for, however they who have given no attention to art 
and its influences may be surprised at the assertion — such a 
chaos cannot be daily seen with impunity. What at first 
shocked soon becomes familiar, and the susceptibility to healthy 
impressions from the display of order, harmony, logical depend- 

74 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

ence, and adaptation, are weakened, if not destroyed in the 

I have mentioned some flagrant instances of the want of care 
or of knowledge on the part of those to whom the national 
buildings have been intrusted. This strain of remark might be 
continued until we had passed in review almost every detail of 
the structure and ornaments of the public works. It is an 
ungrateful task. Enough has been said to show that the evi- 
dent intention of Congress to render these buildings and 
grounds worthy of the nation, both in their construction and 
maintenance, has thus far been very imperfectly effected. I 
will now state what I believe to be the reason why so much 
outlay has produced so unsatisfactory a result. First : I believe 
that the absence of any clear and distinct ideas of what is 
becoming, dignified, and proper in the premises, lies at the root 
of the evil. For this no one is to blame. The wants of this 
people have called — imperatively called — the active and able 
men of the country to pursuits far removed from an investiga- 
tion of the beautiful, either in theory or in practice. These 
minds have been engaged in laying the foundations, broad and 
deep, of a mighty empire. They have reared the walls — they 
have distributed the blessed light and blessing air throughout 
the vast structure. They have tamed the forest, subdued the 
wilderness, and spread the benign influence of the gospel and 
of education from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. They have 
left to later days and men of other mould the task of throwing 
around the pillars of the State the garlands of a fine artistic 

^Esthetics at Washington. 75 

culture. Had they been men intent upon the questions that 
occupy us now, they had been as unfit for the task imposed on 
them, as the land was unprepared for their labors. But untu- 
tored as they were in the mysteries of art, an instinct, great, 
noble, and unerring, guided their decision in respect to the 
visible attributes of this Metropolis. The selection of this site, 
the ground plan of this city, show the outline of a master ; and 
years must elapse ere any school which we can found will be 
capable of worthily filling it. Secondly : I believe that the 
heterogeneous and chaotic character of these buildings and 
grounds arises from an ill-judged interference with technical 
design and arrangement on the part of men in authority, whe- 
ther in the legislative or executive branches of government. 
Since our institutions carry with them, as a necessary conse- 
quence, a frequent change in the personnel of government, it is 
clear that if each succeeding wave of deputed authority is to 
leave the impress of its taste and its will upon the public struc- 
tures, these must, ere long, be but a patchwork of as many 
whims, fancies, and artistic dogmas, as have found favor in the 
eyes of the temporary occupants of place, unless some standard 
can be established which all will recognise — a consummation 
not now to be hoped for. I believe that this country is alone 
in referring matters of art to legislative committees. In Eng- 
land committees supervise and report, and Parliament criticises 
and condemns, but the artist is not interfered with, in his own 
province. The law maxim is held good in that case. I have 
been told that the invention of the alto relievo upon the tym- 

7 6 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

panum, was due to Mr. Adams. If so, it was an unhappy 
exertion of his great powers. Sculpture, when it adorns build- 
ings, is subordinate to them ; and when the sculptor invades 
the tympanum, he must fill it, or he produces a meagre and 
mean effect. Mr. Adams knew all of art that books and much 
observation could teach him, but he could not, of course, be 
aware of the many proprieties violated in that invention. The 
work has another defect as sculpture. It is the translation of 
rhetoric into stone — a feat often fatal to the rhetoric, always 
fatal to the stone. 

As a most honorable contrast to ever conflicting claims of 
private taste and whim to obtain utterance in the public works, 
I feel pleasure and pride in observing the course adopted by 
the architect who has been honored with the task of adding 
the wings of the Capitol. That architect, trained in the sever- 
est school of ancient art, had he been called on for a new 
building, would surely have attempted something very different 
from the actual Capitol. Called to enlarge it, he has sought 
to divest himself of every prepossession that would interfere 
with its harmony as a whole. He has approached his task 
with reverence. He has sought to keep company with his pre- 
decessor. This is not only honorable and just as regards La- 
trobe, but can take nothing from his own well earned reputa- 
tion. Speaking now and in view of the mere model, I doubt if 
it be even in his power so widely to extend the facade, without 
painfully isolating the cupola, and leaving the present edifice 
too low, too wanting in mass and weight, to characterize a 

^Esthetics at Washington. 11 

centre. Avoiding this defect, he will triumph over a great 
obstacle. What the architect has here decided in reference to 
the original design of the Capitol, seems worthy of all emula- 
tion on the part of such as, by the vicissitudes of office, may 
have charge of the national buildings. 

In all remarks upon important public edifices, there is a two- 
fold subject under contemplation. First : The organic structure 
of the works. Second : Their monumental character. To 
plant a building firmly on the ground — to give it the light that 
may, .the air that must, be needed — to apportion the spaces for 
convenience — decide their size — and model their shapes for 
their functions — these acts organize a building. No college of 
architects is a quorum to judge this part of the task. The 
occupants alone can say if they have been well served ; time 
alone can stamp any building as solid. The monumental cha- 
racter of a building has reference to its site — to its adaptation 
in size and form to that site. It has reference also to the 
external expression of the inward functions of the building — to 
adaptation of its features and their gradation to its dignity and 
importance, and it relates, moreover, to that just distinction 
which taste always requires between external breadth and inte- 
rior detail. 

To ascertain what the organic requirements of a building- 
like the Capitol are, is, in itself, a most laborious task. To 
meet them requires all the science we possess. Have we not 
seen the House of Lords, in spite of all the experience and the 
knowledge brought to bear upon the vast outlay that reared it, 

78 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

pronounced a gewgaw by the men who were obliged to work 
therein ? Discomfort and annoyance soon find utterance. De- 
coration and magnificence in such cases, like the velvet and 
gilding of a ship's cabin, seen with sea-sick eyes, aggravate our 
discontent. Nor is a defective arrangement merely uncom- 
fortable ; it may prove costly beyond all belief. I have been 
assured by one of the chief officers of a department, that one- 
half of the employes of his section of the administration, were 
required only by the blundering and ignorant arrangement of 
the edifice. To say that such oversights are inevitable, is an 
unjust accusation of the art. When those who are called to 
the task of lodging one of the departments of the Government, 
shall make organization the basis of their design, instead of a 
predetermined front, which often deserves to have the inverted 
commas of quotation affixed to it, we shall hear no such com- 
plaints as I have above related. 

The men who have reduced locomotion to its simplest ele- 
ments, in the trotting wagon and the yacht America, are nearer 
to Athens at this moment than they who would bend the Greek 
temple to every use. I contend for Greek principles, not Greek 
things. If a flat sail goes nearest wind, a bellying sail, though 
picturesque, must be given up. The slender harness and tall 
gaunt wheels are not only effective, they are beautiful — for they 
respect the beauty of a horse, and do not uselessly task him. 
The English span is a good one, but they lug along more pre- 
tension than beauty ; they are stopped in their way to claim 
respect for wealth and station ; they are stopped for this, and, 

^Esthetics at Washington. *79 

therefore, easily passed by those who care not to seem, but are. 
To prefer housings to horseflesh, and trappings to men, is alike 
worthy of a savage. 


A national monument to Washington has been designed, 
and is in process of construction. A lithographic print of this 
design is before the public. It represents an obelisk, rising out 
of a low, circular building, whose exterior presents a Greek 
colonnade of the Doric order. A fac-simile of the endorsement 
of some of our most distinguished citizens recommends this 
design to their fellow countrymen. I propose to examine the 

The prominent peculiarity of the design before us is the inter- 
marriage of an Egyptian monument — whether astronomical, as 
I believe, or Phallic, as contended by a Boston critic, matters 
not very much — with a Greek structure, or one of Greek ele- 
ments. I do not think it is in the power of art to effect such 
an amalgamation, without corrupting and destroying the spe- 
cial beauties and characters of the two elements. The one, 
simple even to monotony, may be defined a gigantic expression 
of unity. The other a combination of organized parts, assem- 
bled for a common object. The very perfection of their forms, 
as exponents of so distinct characters, makes them protest 
against juxtaposition. 

80 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

If the union of Egyptian mass and weight with Greek com- 
bination and harmony be heterodox, the order in which they 
are here displayed is even more strikingly a violation of pro- 
priety. The complex, subdivided, comparatively light Greek 
structure, is placed as a basis, a foundation. The Egyptian 
mass of stone rises above it. When this arrangement is stated, 
I must think that its palpable absurdity is demonstrated. It 
may be urged that those weaker and more slender columns veil 
a massive foundation within them. We had guessed this 
already, because a miracle alone could otherwise sustain the 
weight. The pillars hide the strength of the structure, hence 
their impertinence, as an architectural feature. It is incum- 
bent upon edifices, first to be strong; secondly, to look 
strong. We have read of a colossus of brass, with feet of 
clay, and the image is striking. To an architect, Egyptian 
weight sustained, in appearance, by Greek pillars, is not less so. 
That buildings, in rising from the earth, be broad and simple 
at their bases, that they grow lighter not only in fact but in 
expression, as they ascend, is a principle established. The laws 
of gravitation are at the root of this axiom. The spire obeys 
it. The obelisk is its simplest expression. 

Waiving the impropriety of a Doric colonnade as a basis for 
an obelisk, I object to that order for a circular structure. The 
Doric capital, in its upper member, echoes and parallels the 
entablature. In a circular structure, this is impossible, without 
maiming the order. Your capital protests against its entabla- 
ture. For circular structures, in the temple of Vesta, and that 

^Esthetics at Washington. 81 

beautiful ruin at Tivoli for instance, the Corinthian capital has 
been adopted ; but the Corinthian is too manifestly absurd a 
basis for a plain shaft of stone. 

This obelisk is made to differ essentially from the most 
admired specimens of that kind of monument. The differences 
are, first, in the relative diameters at the summit and base;" 
second, in the relative height of the pyramidion which forms 
the apex. In Cleopatra's needle, the base is a full diagonal of 
the summit of the prism. In this the base is less than that 
diagonal. By this departure from example, topheaviness has 
been obtained. The altitude of the pyramidion, in Cleopatra's 
needle, is equal to the width of the base, and is, of course, a 
very acute angle, terminating gradually the lofty shaft. In 
this, the pyramidion forms an obtuse angle, its altitude is so 
small that a little distance will obliterate it altogether, and the 
obelisk must assume a truncated, and of course unfinished 

When Michael Angelo was wending his way from Florence 

to Rome, to assume the charge of finishing St. Peter's Church, 

his servant related that, on reaching the summit of the Apen- 

nine, near Poggibonsi, he turned his horse and sat gazing long 

and intently upon the dome of Bruneleschi, the giant cupola of 

the Florentine cathedral. After some time he was heard to 

growl, " Better than thee, I cannot ; like thee, I will not." The 

result was the dome of St. Peter's. Michael Angelo "took the 

responsibility," as such men always will. He did it at his 

peril, as all men must. Implicit conformity to precedent obli- 



terates and annihilates the individual; violation of it, not jus- 
tified by. theory, or by practical result, sets the individual on no 
enviable pedestal. A throne may become a pillory. 

The obelisk has to my eye a singular aptitude, in its form 
and character, to call attention to a spot memorable in history. 
It says but one word, but it speaks loud. If I understand its 
voice, it says, Here ! It says no more. For this reason it was 
that I designed an obelisk for Bunker Hill, and urged argu- 
ments _ that appeared to me unanswerable against a column 
standing alone.* If this be the expression of the obelisk, I 
object to the site of the proposed monument. 

* The column used as a form of monument has two advantages. 
First, it is a beautiful object — confessedly so. Secondly, it requires no 
study or thought ; the formula being ready made to our hands. 

I object, as regards the first of these advantages, that the beauty of a 
column, perfect as it is, is a relative beauty, and arises from its adapta- 
tion to the foundation on which it rests, and to the entablature which 
it is organized to sustain. The spread of the upper member of the 
capital calls for the entablature, cries aloud for it. The absence of that 
burden is expressive either of incompleteness, if the object be fresh and 
new, or of ruin if it bear the marks of age. The column is, therefore, 
essentially fractional — a capital defect in a monument, which should 
always be independent. I object to the second advantage as being one 
only to the ignorant and incapable. I hold the chief value of a monu- 
ment to be this, that it affords opportunity for feeling, thought, and 
study, and that it not only occasions these in the architect, but also in 
the beholder. 

I have urged these arguments in conversation, and have sometimes 
been met by the declaration that my hearer did not feel their force as 
against what he liked in itself. I may state here that such a feeling 
places him in the same category with those to whom it is indifferent 

^Esthetics at Washington. 83 

I protest also against the enormous dimensions of this struc- 
ture. It is another example of the arithmetical sublime — an 
attempt to realize in art the physical truth that many little 
things united form one great one ; which in art is not true, 
A monolithe, a single shaft of granite, has a value like that of 
the diamond — a value which increases in a geometric ratio 
with its weight. Why ? Because its extraction from the 
quarry, its elaboration and safe erection show not only wealth, 
but science. The temple of Minerva, at Athens — the marvel of 
ancient as of modern critics — was scarce larger than one of our 
schoolhouses. It was great, but not large. It was a jewel, 
both of design and structure. It was an embodiment of 

To be impressive, a monument must contain thought and 
feeling. Flendum est primum ipsi tibi ! Your five hundred 

whether a book he held with the right or with the wrong side up. It 
accuses want of vision or want of instruction. 

But ancient Rome possessed two of these monuments, London has 
two, and Paris has two. To this I will only answer that London and 
Paris have confessedly followed Rome in this matter, and Rome was 
more eager to seize upon and appropriate the Greek magnificence than 
capable of digesting and assimilating it. But the attempting now to 
argue against columns, so universally admired as monuments, is pre- 
sumptuous. I object to this objection that it is not American. 

The column used as an integral monument, however its fractional 
character may be disguised by urns, statues, or other objects placed 
upon it, belongs to the numerous and respectable family of makeshifts 
— taking a form or object designed for one purpose, and applying it to 
another — which is a violation of the first sublime law of creation. 
Creation supposes that neither material nor power is wanting. 

84 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

feet of granite built as chimneys are, stone upon stone, is a 
failure. It shows how much you are willing to spend to have 
done with it. " Ilfaut 'payer de sa peau /" 

A structure which rises five hundred feet from the ground 
and bears the name of Washington, must form a unique fea- 
ture in this metropolis. It must command the attention of 
every one, be he American or foreigner, who sees its lofty shaft 
towering into the blue, and holding the sunshine after twilight 
is grey below. What will be its effect artistically speaking ? 
Kneading into incongruous contact elements hitherto only 
jumbled by conquest and ruin — truncated— bare — without gra- 
dation and without finale — standing upon crumbling detail — 
heavy above and light below — it will be a symbol of huge 
aspiration and chaotic impotence. 

Monuments to really great men are opportunities on which 
to hang the proofs of the development of art. The great need 
them not. We need them. The tombs of the Medici embody 
the theory of Buonarotti. The statue of Frederic is the apo- 
theosis of Prussian sculpture. 

The obelisk which stands at the entrance of the Champs 
Elysees is typical of African conquest. Like the captive ele- 
phants led in a Roman show, its exotic form gives significance 
to the triumph that placed it there. The monolithes that tower 
before the Roman Basilicas have also a certain propriety in the 
residence of an absolute temporal prince, who is at the same 
time assumed to be the vicar of Christ. All forms may be 
collected without, as all tongues are spoken within. 

^Esthetics at Washington. 85 

I am aware that there is scarce an architect in the country 
that could not have demonstrated the absurdity of the monu- 
ment I have examined, and have thus prevented its consumma- 
tion. Why were they all silent ? 


The general aspect of this picture is striking. The idea of 
representing these heroes of our history, engaged in prayer on 
the deck of the good ship that was to waft them to these 
shores, was an ingenious and a happy one. The composition 
of lines is worthy of Mr. Weir, and shows a profound study of 
that very difficult branch of his art. There is no clap-trap or 
vulgar effect in the arrangement — all are in their places, and a 
pleasing variety has been created without any theatrical make- 
shift. The subject has been treated with due reverence — con- 
scientiously. It is a work of good omen. 

The arrangement of the chiaro-scuro is a puzzle to my under- 
standing. I see a circle of light inclosing a broad mass of half 
shadow. In this half shadow lies the pith and marrow of the 
subject matter of this composition. He who prays — he who 
holds the sacred volume — the mother with her ailing child — 
all these are in twilight, while the evidence and flash of day are 
reserved for figures half averted — piebald silks, and gleaming 
armor, with other objects essentially accessory. 

86 Esthetics at Washington. 

If any deep-laid train be here to rouse the attention and 
chain it to the important features of this page, it has missed its 
object with me. I long to haul a sail aside, if sail it be that 
makes this mischief, and let in a shaft of light upon that pray- 
erful face. I am out of humor with that dress, so real, which 
mocks my desire to see men. The armor is true Milan steel. 
The men are foggy. The sail is real — the maker would 
swear to his stitches. The hobnailed shoes are so new and 
actual that I smell leather as I stand there. To balance the 
execution, the hair should be less conventional — the flesh, too, 
more transparent and life-like. I see no gleam from any eye 
in all that company ; but the iron ring in yonder foot of the 
sail twinkles ambitiously. This inversion of the true law of 
emphasis is unaccountable to me in this master. Had I any 
hope of influencing him, I would beg of him, while yet it is 
day, to modify the effect of this work. If I despaired of bring- 
ing the heads and hands up to the still-life, I would put the 
latter down, not only in light but in elaboration and illusion, 
until it kept its place. 

Light in a composition is like sound and emphasis in deli- 
very. You may make a figure or a group tell darkly amid a 
glare for certain purposes ; not when the nuances of physi- 
ognomy and emotion are essential. Awfully have I seen in a 
broad, illuminated group, a cloud darken Judas as he gave the 
traitor kiss to our Lord. The masters of Venice have more 
than once succeeded in giving to figures in shadow all the 
roundness, glow, and reality, admitted in the highest light ; 

^Esthetics at Washington. 8*7 

where that power of pencil is, who could deny the right quid- 
libet audendi ? To rny sense, here are figures more important 
than these on the foreground, which are flat, and cold, 
and dim. 

"Who can doubt that Mr. Weir, had he lived in an age and 
country where art was prized, would have wrought many 
great, instead of this one very respectable picture ? I mean for 
the government. 

As I have ventured to complain of the Flemish illusion and 
microscopic finish of the accessories in this picture, contrasted 
as they are by an execution rather dim and vague in the chief 
figures, I will further explain my meaning by a contrary exam- 
ple in a master-piece of ancient art. In the group of Laocoon 
we never weary of admiring the palpitating agony of the 
father, the helpless struggles of the sons. The serpents, which 
are the causes of this pain and despair, are scarce noticed ; 
why ? because the artist wished to chain our attention upon 
the human portion of the spectacle. He had no means of veil- 
ing the snakes in shadow ; but he has veiled them in the mode 
of treatment. There is more imitation, undercutting, illusion, 
in one of the grey locks of the old man, than in the serpents' 
whole form. Even their heads, as they strike, are made vague 
and indistinct. Do we suppose that the sculptor who made 
those limbs throb, and that marble mouth hot with pain, was 
blind to the beauty of the bossed hide and abdominal rings of 
a snake ? This is impossible. He gave only enough of the 
snakes to tell the story, because the snakes were not the sub- 

88 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

jects of his chisel, but the men. This is art; nay, this is 
pure art. 

The same rule, or a rule analogous to this, decides the treat- 
ment of drapery in the higher works of Greece. In decorative 
statuary, the Greek showed his feeling for all the minutest 
graces, and the most accidental effects of varied stuffs ; and his 
hand echoed his eye, and mirrored the whole in stone. But in 
his great works, the stuff is one, and all the folds are wrought 
broad and simple. He avoids small facts, that he may fasten 
your eye upon great truth. To be true to fact, the figure of 
Laocoon should be clothed in a priest's dress — clothe him thus, 
and the subject is for a painter. The first postulate of sculp- 
ture in its essence is, that the veil of convention be rent. Dress 
the fighting gladiator, and you might as well sculpture a house, 
and tell me that a fighting hero is inside thereof; or say, as 
Michael Angel o playfully said, that perfection lies in every rock 
that rolls from a quarry. True it is, that perfect beauty is in 
every rock ; the art lies in stripping therefrom the dress of chips 
that disguise it. 

There is one law of painting, as of sculpture, which he alone 
can fully understand and obey who is conversant with both 
arts. This law commands, to lay the stress of study there 
where the art is strong, and avoid, as far as may be, the occa- 
sion of showing its impotence. For instance, when in the 
fifteenth century they attempted perspective in bas-relief, they 
blundered ; because the success is partial, and unable to keep 
company with painted perspective, where it is perfect. The 

Esthetics at Washington. 89 

flying hair and waving draperies of Bernini, are similar proofs 
of ill-judged toil. They are a conquest of mechanical difficulty, 
and so is the Chinese ivory ball within ball — both belong to the 
same family, characterized by Reynolds as laborious effects of 
idleness ; both are curious and amusing, and so is a juggler — 
but not in the Senate. 


I was wandering, the evening of my arrival in Washington, 
after a nine years' absence ; musing as I walked, I found myself 
on the banks of the Potomac. I was reflecting upon the sin- 
gular contrast between the non-committal, negative nomencla- 
ture of these avenues and streets, and the sagacious policy 
which, in Europe, makes every name a monument, every 
square enforce the creed, every bridge echo an historical fact, 
or record a triumph of principle. Nature, in the moral world, 
still abhors a vacuum, and I felt that A, B, C street were tem- 
porary names — squatters, waiting till the rightful lords of the 
domain shall appear. 

I pondered in my mind the structure of a monument which 
should record the labors, sufferings, and triumph of the cham- 
pions of freedom ; — of free thought and belief, of free speech 
and free action. The moon was rising, half veiled by long- 
straight bars of heavy cloud. She rose out of them, and her 

light fell broad and bright on the distant Capitol, with triple 


90 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

dome and stately columns. My eagerness to rear the pile I 
had been dreaming of was hushed. I thought I saw it there 
before me ! Those pillars were no more mere shafts of stone ; 
Luther and Melancthon, Russell, Hampden, Galileo, Savona- 
rola, Sarpi, and a host besides, united in spectral majesty with 
the worthies of our own land to uphold the roof! The whole 
was cemented with the blood of martyrs. No man that had 
cast fear behind him, and done battle for the right, but had 
given his grain to form that temple. It stirred me, for I am 
not used to the sight. A few weeks earlier I had been seated 
beside a pale Dominican friar in the cell where Savonarola 
dwelt, and where hung a picture of the Puritan of the Arno, 
burning on the great square, and steadied amid the flames, by 
masked monks, as he reeled amid the choking heat ; I 
thought how different is the fire that here burns. As a mere 
unit of humanity I felt consoled. Suddenly, as I walked, the 
dark form of the Smithsonian palace rose between me and the 
white Capitol, and I stopped. Tower and battlement, and all 
that mediaeval confusion, stamped itself on the halls of Con- 
gress, as ink on paper ! Dark on that whiteness — complication 
on that simplicity ! It scared me. Was it a spectre, or was 
not I another Rip Van Winkle who had slept too long? It 
seemed to threaten. It seemed to say, I bide my time ! Oh, 
it was indeed monastic at that hour ! 

I never was of those who hold that there is a covered way 
from the Vatican to Avernus, on the one hand, corresponding 
to that which leads to the Fort of .St. Angelo, on the other. I 

^Esthetics at Washington. 91 

have seen the Italian clergy nearly — sometimes intimately — 
from the prelate to the begging friar ; I have admired their 
scholars, and. have loved their men. I revere the bridge over 
which oxrr faith has been borne to us. I am not so ignorant 
of history as to repudiate the sagacious preservers of the old 
Latin civilization. Still, I have brought from that land a fear 
of their doctrine, and a hatred of their politics. I fear their 
doctrine, because it seems to lull and to benumb the general, 
the average mind, while it rouses and spurs the few. I fear it 
the more because others do not fear it. I hate their politics 
because they are hostile to ours. 

This it was that made me shudder at that dark pile — that 
castle of authority — that outwork of prescription. On walk- 
ing round to the south, I was much relieved ; I could see 
through and through the building. This was a departure 
from all that I had seen in the real, old turreted fortresses 
of theology. It was of good omen. 

I am not about to criticize the edifice. I have not quite 
recovered from my alarm. There is still a certain mystery 
about those towers and steep belfries that makes me uneasy. 
This is a practical land. They must be for something. 
Is no coup d'etat lurking there ? Can they be merely orna- 
ments, like the tassels to a University cap ? Perhaps they 
are an allopathic dose adminstered to that parsimony which 
so lona" denied to science where to lay her head — contraria 
contrariis curantur ! They must have cost much money. 
"Bosom'd high in tufted trees," the Smithsonian College 

92 ^Esthetics at Washington. 

must, in itself, be hereafter a most picturesque object — the 
models, whence it has been imitated, are both " rich and rare" 
— the connoisseurs may well " wonder how the devil it got 

I propose to examine the building hereafter, with reference 
to its organization for a distinct purpose. 


An American citizen, standing here upon the pavement of 
the principal avenue of the Metropolis, sees five ensigns of the 
United States flying within sight of each other. Two of these 
flags float over the halls of Congress, and announce a session 
of both branches of the legislature ; a third adorns the roof of 
an omnibus as a gala decoration ; a fourth appears on the 
roof-tree of a new hotel as a sign, or perhaps puff extraordinary ; 
a fifth marks the site of an engine-house. I cannot but think 
that several of these flags are misplaced. Their use at the 
Capitol has always struck my eye as appropriate and beautiful. 
The other instances of their appearance which I have mention- 
ed seem an abuse, a desecration of the national symbol of 

There is always a tendency in every community to seize 
upon and make use of that which is public, or of general influ- 
ence and widely recognised significance. The same holy 
symbol which surmounts the cupola of all Roman Catholic 

^Esthetics at Washington. 93 

cathedrals, is made in Italy to answer the end which in Eng- 
land is effected by a bit of board, bearing the words "commit 
no nuisance." When the position which it is desired to protect 
is particularly exposed, the cross is repeated ten, twenty, fifty 
times, and is even reinforced by verses in honor of saints, 
martyrs, and the Holy Virgin. A foreigner is much shocked 
by such a practice. The natives smile at his squeamishness — 
they are used to it ; yet they all quote " nee Deus intersit, etc." 
readily enough upon other occasions. 

It is very clear that the national flag, however some persons 
may smile at the assertion, has a deep and noble significance, 
one which we should hold sacred and do nothing to impair. 
Were it a mere " bit of bunting," as the British Foreign Secre- 
tary thoughtlessly or artfully styled it, why should we see it 
universally paraded? 

I believe no one will deny that the colors of the Union 
hoisted at the dockyards and arsenals assert the national pos- 
session — that they proclaim the nationality of our merchant 
ships in foreign parts, and sanction the display of our naval 
power. These and the like occasions call for them, and their 
appearance has a value and expression of a peculiar kind. Is 
it doubtful that the dragging them through the streets by who- 
soever chooses so to do, the parading them upon taverns, and 
raree-shows, and other like trivial occasions, tends to degrade 
and weaken their special meaning and value ? I may be told 
that the abuse, if such it be, is rather within the region of taste 
than of legal observance. I regret that it is so, because the 

94 JEt s t ii e t i c s at Washington. 

whole matter has assumed its present aspect, because it is 
" nobody's business" to interfere. It is merely as a question of 
taste that I speak of it, and as such, I believe that a little reflec- 
tion will show, that accustomed as we are to see the flag hung 
out " a-propos de bottes" and sometimes hanging downwards 
too, so as almost to touch the heads of the horses as they pass, 
our indifference to the desecration is merely a measure of use, 
and wont, and analogous, though not equal to the obtuseness 
of the Catholic, who uses the cross of the Redeemer in lieu of a 
by-law or police regulation. 

I have heard the right of each citizen to use the national flag 
stoutly maintained. I cannot see why the consular seal, or the 
gardens of the White House, are not equally at his mercy. 
There is another argument which may be called the argumen- 
tum ad Buncombe, and which might easily be resorted to to 
defend this and the like abuses, viz., That it is peculiarly 
American and democratic. The English long asserted a right 
to be coarse and uncourteous as a proof of sincerity and frank- 
ness. John Bull, they contended, was too honest to be civil. 
There is much nonsense of this sort in the old books. Exces- 
sive beer-drinking and other gluttonies were upheld as having 
some mysterious virtue in them. Sailors used to swear and 
blaspheme in a similar way. It was expected of them, and 
required no apology. When such notions yielded, as they 
must, to reflection and cultivation, it was seen at once that they 
had been only abuses or barbarisms ingeniously hitched on to 
other qualities, and identified with self-love. 


The plant of civilization, like other plants, springs from God's 
ground ; it has its roots in the business and bosoms of men, 
throws into the sunshine and the air the stem and branches of 
its toil and its culture, blossoms in poetry and heroism, and 
bears at length the fruit of science, which is a forbidden fruit 
only in its pulp and rind — its seeds are wisdom — not all wis- 
dom, for of the seed itself the germ is small part, since there, 
too, is a rind and a pulp, even the divine embryo of future 
improvement therein wrapped and conserved cannot quicken 
unless it die, for this is not a world for Eureka ! and exultation, 
but for courage, toil, and brotherly love. 

Herein do I find the mischiefs of the older world that they 
have sought to establish, check, and stop the rolling ball that 
circles round the sun ; and truly they were giants, for though 
they could not stop they have shaken it, which is enough, 
when you consider who made it and set it going. 

The higher development of each civilization is a self-criti- 
cism, and along with the condemnation of the past, neatly 
packed in silken integument, lies a promise of better things. 
But this divine verdict, towering at the top of the plant, can 
only wither by staying there ; it must be blown, or shaken, or 

96 Social Theories. 

plucked thence, and consigned to that earth which we all despise 
so truly — the hearts and heads of common men. There must it 
find the soil and moisture, blood and tears, which burst its rind 
and evolve the godhead within. 

The philosophy of Aristotle, the method of Bacon, the poli- 
tics of Machiavelli, the social contract of Rousseau, the Tiran- 
nide of Alfieri, and the philanthropy of Wilberforce, have by 
turns entered into the brains and arms of men who knew not 
how to write, else had they been mere figments of the brain. 

The rhetorical beauty and elaborate putting out of hand of 
these gentlemen's performances mark their position in the 
career of culture ; not roots, but lordly seed cups are they. 
They have no filaments that pierce the solid earth with a dia- 
meter of a spider's web, yet absorb. Not cushioned in cool 
halls, sacred to stillness and fragrant with Russia binding, "do 
men found dynasties. The sign-manual of the Grand Turk 
hath a blood relationship with these cunning fruits of the 
human mind, these theories incarnate in rhetoric. It also is 
symmetrical, elaborate, pleasing to the eye, but if you will 
mark well its contour and features, you shall yet see the bloody 
hand laid down on the sheepskin — which was its prototype. 

Study thou thy botanies ; it is well ; but still shalt thou 
make the good Scotch gardener smile at thy shortcomings ; 
study thou thy anatomies ; it is well ; still shall a Silesian pea- 
sant cure, while thy utmost book only sufncetk to kill ; study 
thou thy electricities and chemistry in thy institute and Royal 
College, yet shall one American painter alone report thee to 

Social Theories. 97 

the antipodes, another row tliee thither ; study thou thy 
mechanics, and forces, and mathematics, build thy practical 
navies and thy yachts made by scientific norma to outstrip the 
world ; yet shall the shrewd eye and rule of thumb suffice to 
leave thee seven miles to leeward, while thy queen sees the 
discomfiture through her tears. 

The voyage of discovery and improvement hath been made 
with a captain who came in through the cabin windows, but 
there were good dumb boatswains on board, who managed to 
say yes and no. 

We who cut stone, temper our tools and choose our blocks 
by rules that are not in the Encyclopaedia or Conversations- 
Lexicon. We are jealous of these knowledges, many of them 
are vague, dim guess-work to appearance. When the book- 
maker doth cross-question us to extract the kernel of our toil, 
we hang the lip and look silly ; under the garb of inarticulate 
stupidity lies a grim determination that the idler en^er not into 
our rest. 

When the great monolithe was erected, by Fontana, if I 
remember, in the square of St. Peter's, it was determined to 
make that job an incarnation of the means and knowledge of 
Eome. This was noble and truly human. They arranged 
their tackle, spotted their hands, and a papal edict promised 
death to any man who should utter a word, until the engineer 
gave the signal that all risk was past. The square was full of 
admiring eyes and beating hearts; slowly that huge crystalliza- 
tion of Egyptian sweat rose on its basis — five degrees, ten, 

98 Social Theories. 


fifteen, twenty, alas ! There be signs of faltering; no matter! 
twenty-five, thirty, forty, forty-three — there is trouble ! Lo ! 
the hempen cables that, like faithful servants, have thus far 
obeyed the mathematician, have suddenly lugged out an order 
from God not to hold that base steady any longer on those 
terms. The engineer, "who knew the hand-writing, trembled ; 
the obedient masons and fachini looked down, then eyed the 
threatening mass. The question was, which way it would fall. 
Among the crowd, silence! The sun poured down on the 
stillness and the despair. Suddenly from out that breathless 
mass of men there came a voice, clear as the archangel's trum- 
pet, Wet the ropes ! The crowd turned. Tiptoe on a post stood 
a fellow in a jacket of humble homespun, his eye full of fire, 
and his hair rising with the sense of his responsibility ; from 
engineer to humblest fachino that order had instant obe- 
dience ; the cables, which only wanted the water cure, bit fiercely 
into the glanite ; the windlasses were manned once more, the 
obelisk rose to its post and took its stand for centuries. It is 
well that there is order and discipline and even the pain of 
death for their sake, because the divine man is not stopped by 
the latter, in that he bears eternal life, and the sense thereof in 
his own bosom. 

Thou whose " Lectures and Miscellanies" do fill my mind 
with a certain sense of roundness, finish, and courtly present- 

ableness, I pray thee, in the fervor of thy faith, to read them in 

a German beerhouse, and amid throngs of low-browed and big- 
jawed Hibernians, stepping here on shore with vast appetite, a 

Social' Theories. 99 

faith that removes mountains, and imperfect, insufficient know- 
ledge of Paley and Chesterfield. There, in the eye that lights 
all that bone and muscle, shalt thou see, as in a glass, darkly, 
no dearth of hard knocks and bloody noses, standing in dread 
array between thy silk stocking theory and any practical, bear- 
able system of living together based thereon. I do not mean 
to deny that thou hast found a sibylline leaf and deciphered it 
well, but there were other sibylline leaves, which were burned 
before pride took the alarm, and the secret of making men 
learn lovingly — was in those that were burned ! 

Humbly do I recognise in thy hand the divine hammer that 
fashions me, as with resolute grip thou holdest me upon the 
anvil ; but the anvil below strikes as hard as thou above, and is 
steadier, for it stands on that which talk cannot reach. jSTot 
from Pliny's Page or Buffon's elaborations did man learn the 
mystery of tiger's tooth or fangs of deadly rattlesnake. The 
nio-htshade " never told her love" to the eve : 'twas in the 
writhing stomach of experiment that she talked the true, Catho- 
lic tongue, English to Englishmen, French to Frenchmen, and 
they who saw believed. 

Well do I know that God's truth is a two-edged sword, even 
such of it as man may wield ; but it is a sword whose handle 
burns as fiercely as its edge doth cut, and knowing men pass it 
more quickly than the bottle. 

Let us make, then, a grand experiment, let us unite as one 
man from Maine to Georgia, we who have read and have seen, 
and let us seek to change the Anglo-Saxon hat, or wrench one 

100 Social Theories. 

button from the empire of Brummagem fashion and trans- 
atlantic dictation, let us see " quid valeant quid recusent humeri" 
let us test our influence with the masses, by a garb made 
according to the demonstrable requirement of climate and con- 
venience. Verily, I say to thee, that Wall street will greet us 
with a guffaw, the maids will titter at us through the blinds, 
the rowdies will hustle us in the thoroughfare, and even the 
good quiet man will see these things through the plate glass of 
his chariot, and say debaxo de su manto. — " Served them right." 
While thou warmest in the promise of order, quiet, content, 
and cheerful toil, lo ! the Catholic priest hath already occupied 
their hearts with the " promise to pay," whose Biddle has yet 
to find his Andrew, and whose god-like defenders and consti- 
tutional expounders mean to fight for it at last, and not "obso- 
lete" it. Not by rushing madly at the differential calculus, or 
wielding algebraic signs or logarithmic compend, is the traffic 
of the world done, because then there would be too hard a pres- 
sure of Sir Isaac Newtons, and Lacroix would lose his balance ; 
Cocker alone will carry you to millions, and then you may 
maintain those that teach the higher law of calculation — and 
make trouble therewith. 

Let us seek rather the kino-dom of God and his righteous- 
ness, and all these things shall be added unto us ; let us throw 
off our coats, and leaving the question of the Trinity an open 
one, teach the poor and the lowly that cleanliness is next to 
godliness ; let us try to save and cleanse what of womanhood 
is left in " poor and common," and seek out little wrongs 

Social Theories. 101 

as a hidden treasure, that we may put a little right in their 
places ; let us frown down waste, for God has only made 
enough of each thing ; let us honor toil, for toil is the sun- 
shine's brother ; let us seek the heart of man, for there is eter- 
nal life, and not ask too much of his head, for that fruit is not 
yet ripe. 

I cannot as yet adopt thy broad humanity — I will put up 
with less breadth, much less — only give me more depth there- 
with. I love the concrete, my brother, and I can look Sir 
Isaac Newton in the eye without flinching ; I kneel to William 
Shakspeare, who guessed to a drop how much oil goes to a 
Lombard's salad. 

Give me the man who, seated in that fog bank betwixt the 
North Sea and the Irish Channel, held horses at the play-house 
and found it in his head to teach kings how to wear a crown ! 
the man who, living amid theatre wenches and pot-house degra- 
dation, found it in his heart to paint the purple dawn of virgin 
womanhood in the far awav south, and made a Moor to burn 
with more than Afric's passion. That's the mind that I will 
follow, not only because he is genial, warm, and real, not only 
because he is substantial, hath avoirdupois, a perfume, and a 
taste, but because he is multiform, elastic, not procrustean, not 
monomaniacal. I hate thy straight lines, and thy arrangements 
for the elbows, and thy lid that fits over all, with the screws 
ready in thy hand. I will none of it. If thou insist, fun shall 
come of it, but it shall be of that fun which all men make who 
forget that it takes two to conclude a bargain. 

102 Social Theories. 

The measure which thou hast scientifically taken of me is 
my measure now, perhaps ! but now I am young, dormant, not 
come to my full height or my adult strength. I feel that I 
am destined to outgrow thy feet and inches hereafter ; whole 
degrees of latitude shall I require for my morning walk — what 
do I say ? I will spurn the great globe itself, and the solar 
system shall hold me in base " circumscription and confine." 
The utmost measure of thy extended arms, my brother, is thy 
own measure, not mine, still less that of collective manhood. If 
thou be truly great, then shalt thou add one grain of sand to 
the ant-hill, and that shall suffice thee, as it hath sufficed thy 
brother insect however great, until now ! 

Remember how Mahomet learned that he was sent of God, 
even by making two or three dunderheads take him at that 
rate. This is the mountain that the fate of all prophets must 
begin by removing. Ever so little a spark of this, even as a 
grain of mustard seed, will answer for a beginning, and then 
comes by degrees a flame that covers a large portion of Asia, 
Africa, and Europe, with turbans, circumcision, and slaughter. 

I object to these transcendental theories of life, because of 
their genesis. I object to them, because of the experience of 
them that hath been made. I object to them, more than all, 
because they threaten to pare down and clip the tendrils by 
which I cling to the concrete. 

They are, one and all, the offspring of negative propositions, 
and are imaginary eliminations of existing evils, and what 
men regard as such. Fourier's disgust at French corruption, 

Social Theories. 103 

passion, and discord, was a good motive for his going to Eng- 
land, or Switzerland, or America. He might have found his 
quietus in the concrete. This disgust was no generative power 
to create a new civilization, because generation is not effected 
through disgust, never was, and never will be. It is the 
crystallization of love and worship in the average mind that 
foundeth new systems, dissatisfaction operates with the torch, 
the mine, and the guillotine, it ploughs, harrows and prepares 
the ground, love seeds it. Love, and Hope, and Faith. 

Dost thou speak to me of the large promise of these people, 
of quiet, and joy, and universal satisfaction, and offer this as a 
proof of love ? I cannot accept it as such. They offer it to 
man on the condition of his beins: no more what he hath ever 
been — a belligerent. They ask him to lay down his fangs and 
claws, and taking him into the high mountain of their theory, 
promise him the kingdom of the world. Retro Satanas ! 

I shall not enter into any contract to wash my Ethiopian 
. skin or eradicate my leopard's spots. I shall seek to be clean 
and to make my neighbor clean, but if he will not be clean, 
" let him be filthy still." 

The experience that hath been made of ultra doctrines does 
not charm my mind. I like not to contemplate the rites of 
Buddha, or the Thebaid, or the monomania of La Trappe. 
Even Quakerism leaves a burning spot of my heart unwatered ; 
this, thou of the Society of Friends, this thou sayest is a proof 
of my corrupt nature. Let us pray ! 
« We are all convinced of our own unworthiness, monsters of 

104 Social Theories. 

guilt are we, but yet have we a clear perception of tlie right, 
we think. Did God, then, make our conscience, and the devil 
make our wills ? If so, we are held by a double ownership, 
and must abide the consequence. 

We are conscious that there is an up and a down in space, 
but if we analyse this idea we shall find that " down" is but 
another name for that which is in the direction of gravitation ; 
" up," that which is against gravitation. To the Infinite Mind 
in infinite space can there be neither up nor down, I think. 
In the moral world self is the centre of gravitation, what tends 
uniquely thither we call selfish — down ; what tends against 
that — generous — up. Now the highest flight of eagle vitality 
must tire, for the gravitation is perennial, the vitality limited, 
brief, feeble. We build our church up into the sky against the 
gravitation, but 'tis only the downward tendency that holds it 
fast. This is true materially, and it is true morally, for there 
are not two Gods, but one God, I believe ! Therefore do civili- 
zations begin with heroism, self-sacrifice, and love ! These, like 
the fusee of the rocket, conquer the suction of earth, and the 
stick soars. The fusee lessens by combustion, the stick remains 
ever of the original avoirdupois. The stick goes up with so 
many ounces of unwillingness, and by degrees there comes a 
balance of power — momentary ; for the downward will gets the 
better of the fire, and the stick comes home. The first Chris- 
tians were crucified with their heads downwards ; the later 
Christians hold largely in the funds, and seek Rothschild's 
countenance. This suction self-ward is so inherent and inevi- 

Social T ii e o k i e s . 105 

table, that the sacrifice of self hath ever, until now, been bought 
— for a consideration — which, to my mind, seems not unlike 
going in at the same hole at which we came out — sailing 
westward until we find ourselves in the orient. 

For these reasons do I mistrust the theorist. Nine times in 
ten hath he no wholesome, working, organic relation with 
God's around or with his fellow-men. Nine times in ten is his 
position in life exceptional and not normal. Nine times in ten 
doth he sit perched upon an income which is a dead branch of 
the living tree of industry, and with his belly distended by the 
east wind, and his heart sour with the ambition that hath struck 
inward, doth he spout generalities more or less outside of the 
real needs of to-day. He hath said in his heart, that God's 
world, till now, hath been but rough draft on slate, and saith 
that he hath a sponge. Not so, brother! This is a fight; 
come down, and take thy side, and do battle for the most right 
of the two combatants. Thy "virtue" is an elevation on 
paper ; to build it on the ground, we must have " cakes 
and ale." 

Lock up thy head, which would fain teach us that one man 
is more than all men ; open thy heart, where there be treasures 
yet untold ; let thy hand do with its might whatever it findeth 
to do, not because of perfection, which is out of reach, but 
because idleness is the root of much evil. 

When, in the plenitude of thy ingenuity, thou canst fashion 
a stick with only one end, a solid body with only one side, a 


1 OG Social Theories. 

magnet with only one pole, a light not dogged by sha- 
dow, a harmony with only one part, a marriage with only 
a bridegroom, then wilt thou be prepared to begin thy 


The susceptibility, the tastes, and the genius which enable a 
people to enjoy the Fine Arts, and to excel in them, have been 
denied to the Anglo- Americans, not only by European talkers, 
but by European thinkers. The assertion of our obtuseness and 
inefficiency in this respect, has been ignorantly and presumptu- 
ously set forth by some persons, merely to fill up the measure 
of our condemnation. Others have arrived at the same con- 
clusion, after examining our political and social character, after 
investigating our exploits, and testing our capacities. They 
admit that we trade with enterprise and skill ; that we build 
ships cunningly, and sail them well ; that we have a quick and 
far-sighted apprehension of the value of a territory ; that we 
make wholesome homespun laws for its government, and that 
we fight hard when molested in any of these homely exercises 
of our ability ; but they assert that there is a stubborn, anti- 
poetical tendency in all that we do, or say, or think; they 
attribute our very excellence, in the ordinary business of life, to 
causes which must prevent our development as artists. 

Enjoying the accumulated result of the thought and labor of 
centuries, Europe has witnessed our struggles with the hard- 

108 American Art. 

ships of an untamed continent, and the disadvantages of colo- 
nial relations, with but a partial appreciation of what we aim 
at, with but an imperfect knowledge of what we have done. 
Seeing us intently occupied, during several generations, in felling 
forests, in building towns, and constructing roads, she thence 
formed a theory that we are good for nothing except these pio- 
neer efforts. She taunted us, because there were no statues or 
frescoes in our log-cabins ; she pronounced us unmusical, 
because we did not sit dow r n in the swamp, with an Indian on 
one side and a rattlesnake on the other, to play the violin. 
That she should triumph over the deficiencies of a people who 
had set the example of revolt and republicanism, was natural ; 
but the reason which she assigned for those deficiencies was not 
the true reason. She argued with the depth and the sagacity 
of a philosopher who should conclude, from seeing an infant 
imbibe with eagerness its first aliment, that its whole life would 
be occupied in similar absorption. 

Sir Walter Scott, rank tory as he was, showed more good 
sense, when, in recommending an American book to Miss Edge- 
worth, he accounted for such a phenomenon, by saying, " that 
people once possessed of a three-legged stool, soon contrive to 
make an easy-chair." Humble as the phrase is, we here per- 
ceive an expectation on his part, that the energies now exer- 
cised in laying the foundations of a mighty empire, would, in 
due time, rear the stately columns of civilization, and crown the 
edifice with the entablature of letters and of arts. Kemember- 
ing that one leg of the American stool was planted in Maine, a 

American Art. 109 

second in Florida, and the third at the base of the Rocky 
Mountains, he could scarce expect that the chair would become 
an easy one in a half-century. 

It is true, that before the Declaration of Independence, 
Copley had in Boston formed a style of portrait which filled Sir 
Joshua Reynolds with astonishment ; and that West, breaking 
through the bar of Quaker prohibition, and conquering the pre- 
judice against a provincial aspirant, had taken a high rank in 
the highest walk of art in London. Stuart, Trumbull, Allston, 
Morse, Leslie, and Newton, followed in quick succession, while 
Vanderlyn won golden opinions at Rome, and bore away high 
honors at Paris. So far were the citizens of the Republic from 
showing a want of capacity for art, that we may safely affirm 
the bent of their genius was rather peculiarly in that direc- 
tion, since the first burins of Europe were employed in the ser- 
vice of the American pencil, before Irving had written, and 
while Cooper was yet a child. That England, with these facts 
before her, should have accused us of obtuseness in regard to 
art, and that we should have pleaded guilty to the charge, fur- 
nishes the strongest proof of her disposition to underrate our 
intellectual powers, and of our own ultra docility and want of 

Not many years since, one of the illustrious and good men 
of America exclaimed, in addressing the nation : 

"Excudent alii mollius spirantia tera, 
Credo ecruidern ; vivos ducent de niarmore vultusl" 

110 American Art. 

Since that period, art has received a new impulse among us. 
Artists have arisen in numbers ; the public gives its attention 
to their productions ; their labors are liberally rewarded. It 
seems now admitted that wealth and cultivation are destined to 
yield, in America, the same fruits that they have given in Italy, 
in Spain, in France, Germany, and England. It seems now 
admitted that there is no anomalous defect in our mental 
endowments ; that the same powers displayed in clearing the 
forest, and tilling the farm, will trim the garden. It seems clear 
that we are destined to have a school of art. It becomes a 
matter of importance to decide how the youth who devote 
themselves to these studies are to acquire the rudiments of imi- 
tation, and what influences are to be made to act upon them. 
This question seemed, at one time, to have been decided. The 
friends of art in America looked to Europe for an example ; and 
with the natural assumption that experience had made the old 
world wise, in what relates to the fine arts, determined upon 
forming Academies, as the more refined nations of the continent 
have ended by doing. We might as well have proposed a 
national church establishment. That the youth must be taught 
is clear — but in framing an institution for that object, if we look 
to countries grown old in European systems, it must be for 
warning rather than for example. We speak from long experi- 
ence and much observation of European Academies. We enter- 
tain the highest respect for the professional ability and for the 
personal character of the gentlemen who preside over those 
institutions. Nay, it is our conviction of their capacity and of 

American Art. Ill 

their individual willingness to impart knowledge, which forces 
upon us the opinion of the rottenness of the systems of which 
they are the instruments. 

De Tocqueville remarks upon the British aristocracy, that, 
notwithstanding their sagacity as a body, and their integrity 
and high-toned character as individuals, they have gradually 
absorbed everything, and left the people nothing; while he 
declares the American employes, though they are sometimes 
defaulters and dishonest, yet, after all, get little beyond their 
dues, and are obliged to sacrifice both reputation and self- 
respect in order to obtain that little. Those who direct the 
Academies of Fine Arts in Europe, are prone to take an advan- 
tage of their position analogous to that enjoyed by the afore- 
said aristocracy. As the latter come to regard the mass as a 
flock to be fed, and defended, and cherished, for the sake of 
their wool and mutton, so the former are not slow to make a 
band of educandi the basis of a hierarchy. Systems and 
manner soon usurp the place of sound precept. Faith is 
insisted on rather than works. The pupils are required to be 
not only docile but submissive. They are not free. 

To minds once opened to the light of knowledge, an adept 
may speak in masses, and the seed will fall on good ground ; 
bnt to awaken a dormant soul, to impart first principles, to 
watch the budding of the germ of rare talent, requires a contact 
and relations such as no professor can have with a class, such 
as few men can have with any boy. If Europe must furnish a 
model of artistical tuition, let us go at once to the records of 

112 American Art. 

the great age of art in Italy, and we shall there learn that 
Michael Angelo and Raphael, and their teachers also, were 
formed without any of the cumbrous machinery and mill-horse 
discipline of a modern Academy. They were instructed, it is 
true ; they were apprenticed to painters. Instead of passively 
listening to an experienced proficient merely, they discussed 
with their fellow students the merits of different works, the 
advantages of rival methods, the choice between contradictory 
authorities. They formed one another. Sympathy warmed 
them, opposition strengthened, and emulation spurred them on. 
In these latter days, classes of boys toil through the rudiments 
under the eye of men who are themselves aspirants for the 
public favor, and who, deriving no benefit, as masters from 
their apprentices, from the proficiency of the lads, look upon 
every clever graduate as a stumbling-block in their own way. 
Hence their system of stupefying discipline, their tying down 
the pupil to mere manual execution, their silence in regard to 
principles, their cold reception of all attempts to invent. To 
chill in others the effort to acquire, is in them the instinctive 
action of a wish to retain. Well do we remember the expres- 
sion of face and the tone of voice with which one of these 
bashaws of an European Academy once received our praise of 
the labors of a man grown grey in the practice of his art, but 
who, though his works were known and admired at Naples and 
St. Petersburg!], at London and Vienna, had not yet won from 
the powers that were his exequatur — " Yes, sir, yes ! clever 
boy, sir ! promises well /" 

American Art. 113 

The president and the professors of an Academy are regarded 
by the public as, of course, at the head of their respective pro- 
fessions. Their works are models, their opinions give the law. 
The youth are awed and dazzled by their titles and their fame ; 
the man of genius finds them arrayed in solid phalanx to com- 
bat his claim. In those countries where a court bestows all 
encouragement, it is found easy to keep from those in power 
all knowledge of a dangerous upstart talent. How far this 
mischievous influence can be carried, may be gathered from the 
position in which Sir Joshua Reynolds and his court managed 
to keep men like Wilson and Gainsborough. He who sees the 
productions of these men in company with those of their con- 
temporaries, and who remembers the impression which Sir 
Joshua's writings had conveyed of their standing as artists, will 
perceive with surprise that they were not the victims of any 
overt act of misrepresentation, but that they were quietly and 
gently praised out of the rank due to them into an inferior one, 
by a union of real talent, constituted influence, and a sly, cool, 
consistent management. 

Many of the ablest painters and sculptors of Europe have 
expressed to us, directly and frankly, the opinion that Academies, 
furnished though they be with all the means to form the eye, 
the hand, and the mind of the pupil, are positively hindrances 
instead of helps to art. 

The great element of execution, whether in painting or in 

sculpture, is imitation. This is the language of art. Almost 

all clever boys can learn this to a degree far beyond what is 


114 American Art. 

supposed. That objects should be placed before tliern calculated 
to attract their attention, and teach them the rules of propor- 
tion, while they educate the eye to form and color, no one will 
dispute; but the insisting upon a routine, the depriving them 
of all choice or volition, the giving a false preference to readi- 
ness of hand over power of thought, all these are great evils, 
and we fully believe that they fall with a withering force on 
those minds especially whose nourishment and guidance they 
were intended to secure — we mean on those minds which are 
filled with a strong yearning after excellence, warm sympa- 
thies, quick, delicate, and nice perceptions, strong will, and a 
j3roud consciousness of creative power of mind, joined to diffi- 
dence of their capacity to bring into action the energies they 
feel within them. The paltry prizes offered for the best per- 
formances seldom rouse men of this order ; they may create in 
such souls an unamiable contempt for their unsuccessful com- 
petitors ; they may give to successful mediocrity, inflated hopes, 
and a false estimate of its own powers. As a substantial help 
they are worthless even to the tyro who wins them. 

Leonardo da Vinci coiled a rope in his studio, and drew from 
it, with the subtlest outline, and the most elaborate study of 
light and shade. " Behold !" said he, " my academy !" He 
meant to show that the elements of art can be learned without 
the pompous array of the antique school, or the lectures of the 
professor. Few will be tempted to follow his example; but 
even that were far better than a routine of instruction which, 
after years of drudgery and labor, sends forth the genius and 

American Art. 115 

the blockhead so nearly on a level with each other, the one 
manacled with precepts, the other armed with them at all 

The above reflections have been drawn from us by the oft- 
repeated expression of regret which we have listened to, " that 
from the constitution of our society, and the nature of our 
institutions, no influences can be brought to bear upon art with 
the vivifying power of court patronage." We fully and firmly 
believe that these institutions are more favorable to a natural, 
healthful growth of art than any hot-bed culture whatever. 
We cannot — (as did Napoleon) — make, by a few imperial 
edicts, an army of battle painters, a hierarchy of drum-arid-fife 
glorifiers. Nor can we, in the life-time of an individual, so 
stimulate this branch of culture, so unduly and disproportion- 
ately endow it, as to make a Walhalla start from a republican 
soil. The monuments, the pictures, the statues of the republic 
will represent what the people love and wish for, — not what 
they can be made to accept, not how much taxation they will 
bear. We hope, by such slow growth, to avoid the reaction 
resulting from a morbid development; a reaction like that 
which attended the building of St. Peter's ; a reaction like that 
consequent upon the outlay which gave birth to the royal 
mushroom at Versailles ; a reaction like that which we antici- 
pate in Bavaria, unless the people of that country are consti- 
tuted differently from the rest of mankind. 

If there be any youth toiling through the rudiments of art, 
at the forms of the simple and efficient school at New York 

116 American Art. 

(whose title is the only pompons thing about it), with a chilling 
belief that, elsewhere, the difficulties he struggles with are 
removed or modified, we call upon him to be of good cheer, 
and to believe — what from our hearts we are convinced of — 
that there is at present no country where the development and 
growth of an artist is more free, healthful, and happy than it is 
in these United States. It is not until the tyro becomes a pro- 
ficient — nay, an adept — that his fortitude and his temper are 
put to tests more severe than elsewhere — tests of which we pro- 
pose to speak more at large on a future occasion. 


We have heard the learned in matters relating to art, ex- 
press the opinion that these United States are destined to form 
a new style of architecture. Remembering that a vast popu- 
lation, rich in material and guided by the experience, the pre- 
cepts, and the models of the old world, was about to erect 
durable structures for every function of civilized life, we also 
cherished the hope that such a combination would speedily be 

We forgot that though the country was young, yet the 
people were old, that as Americans we have no childhood, no 
half-fabulous, legendary wealth, no misty, cloud-enveloped 
back-ground. We forgot that we had not unity of religious 
belief, nor unity of origin ; that our territory, extending from 
the white bear to the alligator, made our occupations dissimi- 
lar, our character and tastes various. We forgot that the Re- 
public had leaped full-grown and armed to the teeth from the 
brain of her parent, and that a hammer had been the instru- 
ment of delivery. We forgot that reason had been the dry 
nurse of the giant offspring, and had fed her from the begin- 
ning with the strong bread and meat of fact ; that every wry 

118 American Architecture. 

face the bantling ever made had been daguerreotyped, and all 
her words and deeds printed and labelled away in the pigeon- 
holes of official bureaux. 

Reason can dissect, but cannot originate ; she can adopt, 
but cannot create ; she can modify, but cannot find. Give her 
but a cock-boat, and she will elaborate a line-of-battle ship ; 
give her but a beam, with its wooden tooth, and she turns 
out the patent plough. She is not young ; and when her friends 
insist upon the phenomena of youth, then is she least attractive. 
She can imitate the flush of the young cheek, but where is the 
flash of the young eye ? She buys the teeth — alas ! she 
cannot buy the breath of childhood. The puny cathedral 
of Broadway, like an elephant dwindled to the size of a dog, 
measures her yearning for Gothic sublimity, while the roar of 
the Astor-house, and the mammoth vase of the great reservoir, 
show how she works when she feels at home, and is in earnest. 

The mind of this country has never been seriously applied 
to the subject of building. Intently engaged in matters of 
more pressing importance, we have been content to receive 
our notions of architecture as we have received the fashion of 
our garments, and the form of our entertainments, from 
Europe. In our eagerness to appropriate, we have neglected 
to adapt, to distinguish, — nay, to understand. We have 
built small Gothic temples of wood, and have omitted all 
ornaments for economy, unmindful that size, material, and 
ornament are the elements of effect in that style of building. 
Captivated by the classic symmetry of the Athenian models 

American Architecture. 119 

we have sought to bring the Parthenon into our streets, to 
make the temple of Theseus work in our towns. We have 
shorn them of their lateral colonnades, let them down from 
their dignified platform, pierced their walls for light, and, in- 
stead of the storied relief and the eloquent statue which 
enriched the frieze, and graced the pediment, we have made 
our chimney tops to peer over the broken profile, and tell, by 
their rising smoke, of the traffic and desecration of the in- 
terior. Still the model may be recognised, some of the 
architectural features are entire ; like the captive king, stripped 
alike of arms and purple, and drudging amid the Helots of a 
capital, the Greek temple, as seen among us, claims pity for 
its degraded majesty, and attests the barbarian force which 
has abused its nature, and been blind to its qualities. 

If we trace Architecture from its perfection, in the days of 
Pericles, to its manifest decay in the reign of Constantine, we 
shall find that one of the surest symptoms of decline was the 
adoption of admired forms and models for purposes not con- 
templated in their invention. The forum became a temple ; 
the tribunal became a temple ; the theatre was turned into a 
church ; nay, the column, that organized member, that sub- 
ordinate part, set up for itself, usurped unity, and was a 
monument ! The great principles of Architecture being once 
abandoned, correctness gave way to novelty, economy and 
vain-glory associated produced meanness and pretension. 
Sculpture, too, had waned. The degenerate workmen could 
no longer match the fragments they sought to mingle, nor 

120 American Architecture. 

copy the originals they only hoped to repeat. The mouldering 
remains of better days frowned contempt upon such impotent 
efforts, till, in the gradual coming of darkness, ignorance be- 
came contempt, and insensibility ceased to compare. 

We say that the mind of this country has never been 
seriously applied to architecture. True it is, that the com- 
monwealth, with that desire of public magnificence which has 
ever been a leading feature of democracy, has called from the 
vasty deep of the past the spirits of the Greek, the Roman, 
and the Gothic styles ; but they would not come when she 
did call to them ! The vast cathedral, with its ever open por- 
tals, towering high above the courts of kings, inviting all men 
to its cool and fragrant twilight, where the voice of the organ 
stirs the blood, and the dim-seen visions of saints and martyrs 
bleed and die upon the canvas amid the echoes of hymning 
voices and the clouds of frankincense, this architectural embo- 
dying of the divine and blessed words, " Come to me, ye who 
labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest !" demands 
a sacrifice of what we hold dearest. Its corner-stone must be 
laid upon the right, to judge the claims of the church. The 
style of Greek architecture, as seen in the Greek temple, 
demands the aid of sculpture, insists upon every feature of its 
original organization, loses its harmony if a note be dropped in 
the execution, and when so modified as to serve for a custom- 
house or a bank, departs from its original beauty and propriety 
as widely as the crippled gelding of a hackney coach differs 
from the bounding and neighing wild horse of the desert. 

American Architecture. 121 

Even where, in the fervor of our faith in shapes, we have 
sternly adhered to the dictum of another age, and have actu- 
ally succeeded in securing the entire exterior which echoes the 
forms of Athens, the pile stands a stranger among us, and 
receives a respect akin to what we should feel for a fellow-citi- 
zen in the garb of Greece. It is a make-believe. It is not the 
real thing. We see the marble capitals ; we trace the acanthus 
leaves of a celebrated model — incredulous; it is not a temple. 
The number and variety of our experiments in building show 
the dissatisfaction of the public taste with what has been 
hitherto achieved ; the expense at which they have been made 
proves how strong is the } r earning after excellence ; the talents 
and acquirements of the artists whose services have been 
engaged in them are such as to convince us that the fault lies 
in the system, not in the men. Is it possible that out of this 
chaos order can arise,? — that of these conflicting dialects and 
jargons a language can be born ? When shall we have done 
with experiments ? What refuge is there from the absurdities 
that have successively usurped the name and functions of archi- 
tecture ? Is it not better to go on with consistency and uni- 
formity, in imitation of an admired model, than incur the dis- 
grace of other failures ? In answering these questions let us 
remember with humility that all salutary changes are the work 
of many and of time; but let us encourage experiment at 
the risk of license, rather than submit to an iron rule that 
begins by sacrificing reason, dignity, and comfort. Let us con- 
sult nature, and, in the assurance that she will disclose a mine, 

122 American Architecture. 

richer than was ever dreamed of by the Greeks, in art as well 
as in philosophy. Let us regard as ingratitude to the author 
of nature the despondent idleness that sits down while one want 
is unprovided for, one worthy object unattained. 

If, as the first step in our search after the great principles of 
construction, we but observe the skeletons and skins of animals, 
through all the varieties of beast and bird, of fish and insect, arc 
we not as forcibly struck hj their variety as by their beauty ? 
There is no arbitrary law of proportion, no unbending model of 
form. There is scarce a part of the animal organization which 
we do not find elongated or shortened, increased, diminished, 
or suppressed, as the wants of the genus or species dictate, as 
their exposure or their work may require. The neck of the 
swan and that of the eagle, however different in character and 
proportion, equally charm the eye and satisfy the reason. We 
approve the length of the same member in grazing animals, its 
shortness in beasts of prey. The horse's shanks are thin, and 
we admire them ; the greyhound's chest is deep, and we cry, 
beautiful ! It is neither the presence nor the absence of this or 
that part, or shape, or color, that wins our eye in natural 
objects ; it is the consistency and harmony of the parts juxta- 
posed, the subordination of details to masses, and of masses to 
the whole. 

The law of adaptation is the fundamental law of nature in 
all structure. So unflinchingly does she modify a type in 
accordance with a new position, that some philosophers have 
declared a variety of appearance to be the object aimed at; so 

American Architecture. 123 

entirely does she limit the modification to the demands of 
necessity, that adherence to one original plan seems, to limited 
intelligence, to be carried to the very verge of caprice. The 
domination of arbitrary rules of taste has produced the very 
counterpart of the wisdom thus displayed in every object 
around us ; we tie up the cameleopard to the rack ; we shave 
the lion, and call him a dog ; we strive to bind the unicorn 
with his band in the furrow, and to make him harrow the val- 
leys after us ! 

When the savage of the South Sea islands shapes his war 
club, his first thought is of its use. His first efforts pare the 
long shaft, and mould the convenient handle ; then the heavier 
end takes gradually the edge that cuts, while it retains the 
weight that stuns. His idler hour divides its surface by lines 
and curves, or embosses it with figures that have pleased his 
eye, or are linked with his superstition. We admire its effect- 
ive shape, its Etruscan-like quaintness, its graceful form and 
subtle outline, yet we neglect the lesson it might teach. If we 
compare the form of a newly invented machine with the per- 
fected type of the same instrument, we observe, as we trace it 
through the phases of improvement, how weight is shaken off 
where strength is less needed, how functions are made to 
approach without impeding each other, how the straight 
becomes curved, and the curve is straightened, till the strag- 
gling and cumbersome machine becomes the compact, effective, 
and beautiful engine. 

So instinctive is the perception of organic beauty in the 

124 American Architecture. 

human eye, that we cannot withhold our admiration even from 
the organs of destruction. There is majesty in the royal paw 
of the lion, music in the motion of the brindled tiger ; we accord 
our praise to the sword and the dagger, and shudder our appro- 
val of the frightful aptitude of the ghastly guillotine. 

Conceiving destruction to be a normal element of the system 
of nature equally with production, we have used the word 
beauty in connexion with it. We have no objection to ex- 
change it for the word character, as indicating the mere adapt- 
ation of forms to functions, and would gladly substitute the 
actual pretensions of our architecture to the former, could we 
hope to secure the latter. 

Let us now turn to a structure of our own, one which, from 
its nature and uses, commands us to reject authority, and we 
shall find the result of the manly use of plain good sense, so 
like that of taste and genius too, as scarce to require a distinct- 
ive title. Observe a ship at sea ! Mark the majestic form of 
her hull as she rushes through the water, observe the graceful 
bend of her body, the gentle transition from round to flat, the 
grasp of her keel, the leap of her bows, the symmetry and rich 
tracery of her spars and rigging, and those grand wind mus- 
cles, her sails. Behold an organization second only to that of 
an animal, obedient as the horse, swift as the stag, and bearing 
the burden of a thousand camels from pole to pole ! What 
Academy of Design, what research of connoisseurship, what 
imitation of the Greeks produced this marvel of construction ? 
Here is the result of the study of man upon the great deep, 

American Architecture. 125 

where Nature spake of the laws of building, not in the feather 
and in the flower, but in winds and waves, and he bent all his 
mind to hear and to obey. Could we carry into our civil 
architecture the responsibilities that weigh upon our ship-build- 
ing, we should ere long have edifices as superior to the Parthe- 
non, for the purposes that we require, as the Constitution or the 
Pennsylvania is to the galley of the Argonauts. Could our 
blunders on terra firma be put to the same dread test that those 
of shipbuilders are, little would be now left to say on this 

Instead of forcing the functions of every sort of building into 
one general form, adopting an outward shape for the sake of 
the eye or of association, without reference to the inner distri- 
bution, let us begin from the heart as a nucleus, and work out- 
wards. The most convenient size and arrangement of the rooms 
that are to constitute the building being fixed, the access of the 
light that may, of the air that must be wanted, being provided 
for, we have the skeleton of our building. Nay, we have all 
excepting the dress. The connexion and order of parts, juxta- 
posed for convenience, cannot fail to speak of their relation and 
uses. As a group of idlers on the quay, if they grasp a rope to 
haul a vessel to the pier, are united in harmonious action by the 
cord they seize, as the slowly yielding mass forms a thorough- 
bass to their livelier movement, so the unflinching adaptation 
of a building to its position and use gives, as a sure product of 
that adaptation, character and expression. 

What a field of study would be opened by the adoption in 

120 American Architecture. 

civil architecture of those laws of apportionment, distribution, 
and connexion, which we have thus hinted at? No longer 
could the mere tyro huddle together a crowd of ill-arranged, 
ill-lighted, and stifled rooms, and masking the chaos with the 
sneaking copy of a Greek facade, usurp the name of architect. 
If this anatomic connexion and proportion has been attained in 
ships, in machines, and, in spite of false principles, in such 
buildings as make a departure from it fatal, as in bridges and 
in scaffolding, why should we fear its immediate use in all con- 
struction ? As its first result, the bank w r ould have the physi- 
ognomy of a bank, the church would be recognised as such, 
nor would the billiard-room and the chapel wear the same uni- 
form of columns and pediment. The African king, standing in 
mock majesty with his legs and feet bare, and his body clothed 
in a cast coat of the Prince Regent, is an object whose ridicu- 
lous effect defies all power of face. Is not the Greek temple 
jammed in between the brick shops of Wall street or Cornhill, 
covered with lettered signs, and occupied by groups of money- 
changers and apple women, a parallel even for his African 
majesty ? 

We have before us a letter in which Mr. Jefferson recom- 
mends the model of the Maison Carree for the State House at 
Richmond. Was he aware that the Maison Carree is but a 
fragment, and that too, of a Roman temple ? He was ; it is 
beautiful — is the answ r er. An English society erected in Hyde 
Park a cast in bronze of the colossal Achilles of the Quirinal, 
and, changing the head, transformed it into a monument to 

American Architecture. 12*7 

Wellington. But where is the distinction between the personal 
prowess, the invulnerable body, the heaven-shielded safety of 
the hero of the Iliad, and the complex of qualities which makes 
the modern general ? The statue is beautiful, — is the answer. 
If such reasoning is to hold, why not translate one of Pindar's 
odes in memory of Washington, or set up in Carolina a colossal 
Osiris in honor of General Greene ? 

The monuments of Egypt and of Greece are sublime as 
expressions of their power and their feeling. The modern 
nation that appropriates them displays only wealth in so doing. 
The possession of means, not accompanied by the sense of pro- 
priety or feeling for the true, can do no more for a nation than 
it can do for an individual. The want of an illustrious ancestry 
may be compensated, fully compensated ; but the purloining of 
the coat-of-arms of a defunct family is intolerable. That such 
a monument as we have described should have been erected in 
London while Chantry flourished, when Flaxman's fame was 
cherished by the few, and Bailey aud Behnes were already 
known, is an instructive fact. That the illustrator of the Greek 
poets, and of the Lord's Prayer, should, in the meanwhile, have 
been preparing designs for George the Fourth's silversmiths, is 
not less so. 

The edifices, in whose construction the principles of architec- 
ture are developed, may be classed as organic, formed to meet 
the wants of their occupants, or monumental, addressed to the 
sympathies, the faith, or the taste of a people. These two 
great classes of buildings, embracing almost every variety of 

12S American Architecture. 

structure, though occasionally joined and mixed in the same 
edifice, have their separate rules, as they have a distinct 
abstract nature. In the former class, the laws of structure 
and apportionment, depending on definite wants, obey a 
demonstrable rule. They may be called machines, each indi- 
vidual of which must be formed with reference to the abstract 
type of its species. The individuals of the latter class, bound 
by no other laws than those of the sentiment which inspires 
them, and the sympathies to which they are addressed, occupy 
the positions and assume the forms best calculated to render 
their parent feeling. No limits can be put to their variety ; 
their size and richness have always been proportioned to the 
means of the people who have erected them. 

If, from what has been thus far said, % it shall have appeared 
that we regard the Greek masters as aught less than the true 
apostles of correct taste in building, we have been misunder- 
stood. We believe firmly and fully that they can teach us ; 
but let us learn principles, not copy shapes ; let us imitate 
them like men, and not ape them like monkeys. Remember- 
ing what a school of art it was that perfected their system of 
ornament, let us rather adhere to that system in enriching 
what we invent than substitute novelty for propriety. After 
observing the innovations of the ancient Romans, and of the 
modern Italian masters in this department, we cannot but 
recur to the Horatian precept — 

" exeroplaria Grrcca 
Xocturna versate mami, .versate diurna !" 

American Architecture. 129 

To conclude : The fundamental laws of building, found at 
the basis of every style of architecture, must be the basis of 
ours. The adaptation of the forms and magnitude of structures 
to the climate they are exposed to, and the offices for which 
they are intended, teaches us to study our own varied wants 
in these respects. The harmony of their ornaments with the 
nature that they embellished, and the institutions from which 
they sprang, calls on us to do the like justice to our country, 
our government, and our faith. As a Christian preacher may 
give weight to truth, and add persuasion to proof, by studying 
the models of pagan writers, so the American builder, by a 
truly philosophic investigation of ancient art, will learn of the 
Greeks to be American. 

The system of building we have hinted at cannot be formed 
in a day. It requires all the science of any country to ascer- 
tain and fix the proportions and arrangements of the members 
of a great building, to plant it safely on the soil, to defend it 
from the elements, to add the grace and poetry of ornament to 
its frame. Each of these requisites to a good building requires 
a special study and a life-time. Whether we are destined soon 
to see so noble a fruit, may be doubted ; but we can, at least, 
break the ground and throw in the seed. 

We are fully aware that many regard all matters of taste 
as matters of pure caprice and fashion. We are aware that 
many think our architecture already perfect; but we have 
chosen, during this sultry weather, to exercise a truly Ameri- 
can right — the right of talking. This privilege, thank God, 

130 American Architecture. 

is unquestioned, — from Miller, who, robbing Beranger, trans- 
lates into fanatical prose, " Finissons en ! le monde est assez 
vieux !" to Brisbane, who declares that the same world has yet 
to begin, and waits a subscription of two hundred thousand 
dollars in order to start. Each man is free to present his 
notions on any subject. We have also talked, firm in the 
belief that the development of a nation's taste in art depends 
on a thousand deep-seated influences, beyond the ken of the 
ignorant present ; firm in the belief that freedom and know- 
ledge will bear the fruit of refinement and beauty, we have 
yet dared to utter a few words of discontent, a few crude 
thoughts of what might be, and we feel the better for it. 
We promised ourselves nothing more than that satisfaction 
which Major Downing attributes to every man " who has had 
his say, and then cleared out," and we already have a pleasant 
consciousness of what he meant by it. 


There are threads of relation which lead me from my specialty 
to the specialties of other men. Following this commune quod- 
dam vinculum, I lay my artistic dogma at the feet of science ; 
I test it by the traditional lore of handicraft ; I seek a confir- 
mation of these my inductions, or a contradiction and refuta- 
tion of them ; I utter these inductions as they occur to myself; 
I illustrate them by what they spontaneously suggest ; I let 
them lead me as a child*. 

Persons whose light I have sought, have been worried and 
fretted at the form, the body of my utterance. Since this soul, 
if soul it be, took the form of this body, I have received it as it 
came. If I seek another form, another dress than that with 
which my thought was born, shall I not disjoin that which is 
one ? Shall I not disguise what I seek to decorate ? I have 
seen that there is in the body and the dress an indication of 
the quantum and quality of the mind, and therefore doth it 
seem honest that I seek no other dress than mine own. I also 
know by heart some lines and proportions of the work of able 
penmen. The lucidus ordo of another mind is not displayed 

132 Relative and 

before me as pearls before swine. I love to bear in my bosom 
a nosegay plucked in classic ground : it sweetens me to myself. 
I respect too much the glory of Schiller and Winkelman, of 
Goethe and Hegel, to dare purloin their vesture for my crudi- 
ties. The partial development of my mind makes the dress 
and garb of imperfection proper for me. My notion of art is 
not a somewhat set forth for sale, that I should show it to 
advantage, or a soldier in uniform, anxious to pass muster, but 
rather a poor babe, whom I strip before the faculty, that they 
may council and advise — perad venture bid me despair. 

Bodies are so varied by climate, and so changed by work, 
that it is rash to condemn them until impotence is demon- 
strated. The camelopard was long declared a monster, born 
of fancy, a nightmare of traveller's brain ; but when the giraffe 
stood browsing in the tree-tops before us, we felt that we had 
been hasty. God's law is as far away from our taste as his 
ways are beyond our ways. I know full well that, without 
dress and ornament, there are places whence one is expelled. 
I am too proud to seek admittance in disguise. I had rather 
remain in the street, than get in by virtue of a borrowed coat. 
That which is partial and fractional may yet be sound and 
good as far as it goes. 

In the hope that some persons, studious of art, may be curi- 
ous to see how I develope the formula I have set up, I proceed. 
When I define Beauty as the promise of Function ; Action as 
the presence of Function ; Character as the record of Function, 
I arbitrarily divide that which is essentially one. I consider 

Independent Beauty. 133 

the phases through which organized intention passes to com- 
pleteness, as if they were distinct entities. Beauty being the 
promise of function, must be mainly present before the phase 
of action ; but so long as there is yet a promise of function there 
is beauty, proportioned to its relation with action or with cha- 
racter. There is somewhat of character at the close of the first 
epoch of the organic life, as there is somewhat of beauty at the 
commencement of the last, but they are less apparent, and 
present rather to the reason than to sensuous tests. 

If the normal development of organized life be from beauty 
to action, from action to character, the progress is a progress 
upwards as well as forwards ; and action will be higher than 
beauty, even as the summer is higher than the spring ; and 
character will be higher than action, even as autumn is the 
resume and result of spring and summer. If this be true, the 
attempt to prolong the phase of beauty into the epoch of action 
can only be made through non-performance ; and false beauty 
or embellishment must be the result. 

Why is the promise of function made sensuously pleasing ? 
Because the inchoate organic life needs a care and protection 
beyond its present means of payment. In order that we may 
respect instinctive action, which is divine, are our eyes charmed 
by the aspect of infancy, and our hearts obedient to the com- 
mand of a visible yet impotent volition. 

The sensuous charm of promise is so great that the unripe 
reason seeks to make life a perennial promise ; but promise, in 

134 • Relative and 

the phase of action, receives a new name — that of non- 
performance, and is visited with contempt. 

The dignity of character is so great that the unripe reason 
seeks to mark the phase of action with the sensuous livery of 
character. The ivy is trained up the green wall, and while the 
promise is still fresh on every line of the building, its function 
is invaded bv the ambition to seem to have lived. 

Not to promise for ever, or to boast at the outset, not to 
shine and to seem, but to be and to act, is the glory of any 
coordination of parts for an object. 

I have spoken of embellishment as false beauty. I will 
briefly develope this view of embellishment. Man is an ideal 
being; standing, himself inchoate and incomplete, amid the 
concrete manifestations of Nature, his first observation recog- 
nises defect ; his first action is an effort to complete his being. 
Not gifted, as the brutes, with an instinctive sense of complete- 
ness, he stands alone as capable of conative action. He studies 
himself; he disciplines himself. Now, his best efforts at orga- 
nization falling short of the need that is in his heart, and there- 
fore infinite, he has sought to compensate for the defect in his 
plan by a charm of execution. Tasting sensuously the effect of 
a rhythm and harmony in God's world, beyond any adaptation 
of means to ends that his reason could measure and approve, 
he has sought to perfect his own approximation to the essential 
by crowning it with a wreath of measured and musical, yet non- 
demonstrable, adjunct. Now, I affirm that, from the ground 

Independent Beauty. 135 

whereon I stand and whence I think I see him operate, he 
thus mirrors, but darkly, God's world. By the sense of incom- 
pleteness in his plan, he shows the divine yearning that is in 
him ; by the effort to compensate for defect in plan by any 
make-shift whatever, he forbids, or at least checks, further 
effort. I understand, therefore, by embellishment, the in- 

science disguised. The many-sided and full and rich har- 
mony of nature is a many-sided response to the call for many 
functions ; not an sesthetical utterance of the Godhead. In the 
tree and in the bird, in the shell and in the insect, we see the 
utterance of him who sayeth yea, yea, and nay, nay ; and, 
therefore, whatever is assumed as neutral ground, or margin 
around the essential, will be found to come of evil, or, in other 
words, to be incomplete. 

I base my opinion of embellishment upon the hypothesis 
that there is not one truth in religion, another in the mathe- 
matics, and a third in physics and in art; but that there is one 
truth, even as one God, and that organization is his utterance. 
Now, organization obeys his law. It obeys his law by an 
approximation to the essential, and then there is what we term 
life ; or it obeys his law by falling short of the essential, and 
then there is disorganization. I have not seen the inorganic 
attached to the organized but as a symptom of imperfect plan, 
or of impeded function, or of extinct action. 

The normal development of beauty is through action to 

136 Relative and 

completeness. The invariable development of embellishment 
and decoration is more embellishment and more decoration. 
The reductio ad absurdum is palpable enough at last; but 
•where was the first downward step ? I maintain that the first 
downward step was the introduction of the first inorganic, non- 
functional element, whether of shape or color. If I be told that 
such a system as mine would produce nakedness, I accept the 
omen. In nakedness I behold the majesty of the essential, 
instead of the trappings of pretension. The agendum is not 
diminished ; it is infinitely extended. We shall have grasped 
with tiny hands the standard of Christ, and borne it into the 
academy, when we shall call upon the architect, and sculptor, 
and painter to seek to be perfect even as our father is perfect. 
The assertion that the human body is other than a fit exponent 
and symbol of the human being, is a falsehood, I believe. I 
believe it to be false on account of the numerous palpable 
falsehoods which have been necessary in order to clinch it. 

Beauty is the promise of Function. Solomon, in all his 
glory, is, therefore, not arrayed as the lily of the field. Solo- 
mon's array is the result of the instinctive effort of incomplete- 
ness to pass itself for complete. It is pretension. When 
Solomon shall have appreciated nature and himself, he will 
reduce his household, and adapt his harness, not for pretension, 
but for performance. The lily is arrayed in heavenly beauty, 
because it is organized both in shape and color, to dose the 
germ of future lilies with atmospheric and solar influence. 

We now approach the grand conservative trap, the basis 

Independent Beauty. 13V 

of independent beauty. Finding in God's world a sensuous 
beauty, not organically demonstrated to us, the hierarchies 
call on us to shut our eyes, and kneel to an sesthetical utterance 
of the divinity. I refuse. Finding here an apparent embel- 
lishment, I consider the appearance of embellishment an 
accusation of ignorance and incompleteness in my science. I 
confirm my refusal after recalling the fact that science has, 
thus far, done nothing else than resolve the lovely on the one 
hand, the hateful on the other, into utterances of the Godhead 
— the former being yea, the latter nay. As the good citizen 
obeys the good law because it is good, and the bad law 
that its incompleteness be manifest, so does every wrong result 
from divine elements, accuse the organization, and by pain 
and woe represent X, or the desired solution. To assert that 
this or that form or color is beautiful per se, is to formulate 
prematurely ; it is to arrogate godship ; and once that false 
step is taken, human-godship or tyranny is inevitable without 
a change of creed. 

The first lispings of science declared that nature abhors a 
vacuum ; there we see humanity expressing its ignorance, by 
transferring a dark passion to the Godhead which is light and 
love. This formula could not outlive experiment, which has 
demonstrated that God's care upholds us with so many pounds 
to the square inch of pressure on every side, and that the 
support is variable. 

The ancients knew somewhat of steam. They formulated 

steam as a devil. The vessels at Pompeii all speak one language 


138 Relative and 

— look out for steam ! The moderns have looked into steam, 
and, by wrestling with him, have forced him to own himself an 
angel — an utterance of love and care. 

We are told that we shall know trees by their fruits : even 
because of the fruits of refusing to kneel, and of worshipping 
with the eyes open, do I proceed to seek that I may find. 

Mr. Garbett, in his learned and able treatise on the 
principles of Design in Architecture, has dissected the English 
house, and found with the light of two words, fallen from Mr. 
Emerson, the secret of the inherent ugliness of that structure. 
It is the cruelty and selfishness of a London house, he says 
(and I think he proves it, too), which affects us so disagree- 
ably as we look upon it. Now, these qualities in a house, like 
the blear-eyed stolidity of an habitual sot, are symptoms, not 
diseases. Mr. Garbett should see herein the marvellous expres- 
sion of which bricks and mortar can be made the vehicles. 
In vain will he attempt to get by embellishment a denial of 
selfishness, so long as selfishness reigns. To medicate s} r mp- 
toms, will never, at best, do more than effect a metastasis — 
suppress an eruption; let us believe, rather, that the English- 
man's love of home has expelled the selfishness from the 
boudoir, the kitchen, and the parlor, nobler organs, and 
thrown it out on the skin, the exterior, where it less threatens 
life, and stands only for X, or a desired solution. If I have 
been clear in what I have said, it will be apparent that the 
intention, the soul of an organization, will get utterance in the 
organization in proportion to the means at its disposal : in 

Independent Beauty. 139 

vain shall you drill the most supple body of hiin that hates 
me, into a manifestation of love for me ; while my blind and 
deaf cousin will soon make me feel, and pleasingly feel, that I 
was the man in all the world that he wished to meet. 

In seeking, through artistic analysis, a confirmation of my 
belief in one God, I offend such hierarchies as maintain that 
there be two Gods : the one good and all powerful, the other 
evil, and somewhat powerful. It is only necessary, in order to 
demolish the entire structure I have raised, that some advocate 
of independent beauty and believer in the devil — for they go 
and come together — demonstrate embellishment for the sake 
of beauty in a work of the divine hand, Let me be under- 
stood ; I cannot accept as a demonstration of embellishment a 
sensuous beauty not yet organically explained. I throw the 
onus probandi on him who commands me to kneel. I learned 
this trick in Italy, where the disappointed picture-dealer often 
defied me, denying his daub to be a Raphael, to say, then, 
what it was. No, my friend, I care not whose it is ; when I say 
certainly not a Raphael, I merely mean that I will none of it. 

If there be in religion any truth, in morals any beauty, in 
art any charm, but through fruits, then let them be demon- 
strated ; and the demonstration, in regard to morals and faith, 
will work backward and enlighten art. 

I have diligently sought, with scalpel and pencil, an embel- 
lishment for the sake of beauty, a sacrifice of function to other 
than destruction. I have not found it, "When I, therefore, 

140 Relative and 

defy the believer in the devil to show me sueh an embellish- 
ment, I do so humbly. I want help. 

It seems to me that a word of caution is necessary before 
seeking independent beauty. Beauty may be present, yet not 
be recognised as such. If we lack the sense of the promise of 
function, beauty for us will not exist. The inhabitants of cer- 
tain Swiss valleys regard a goitre as ornamental. It is a some- 
what superadded to the essential, and they see it under the 
charm of association. The courtiers of Louis XIV. admired the 
talon rouge, and the enormous perruque. They were somewhat 
superadded to the essential, and they saw them under the 
charm of association ; but the educated anatomist in Switzer- 
land sees the goitre as we see it. The educated artist of Louis 
XIV.'s time saw the maiming pretension of his dress as we 
see it. 

The aim of the artist, therefore, should be first to seek the 
essential ; when the essential hath been found, then, if ever, will 
be the time to commence embellishment. I will venture to 
predict that the essential, when found, will be complete. I will 
venture to predict that completeness will instantly throw off all 
that is not itself, and will thus command, " Thou shalt have no 
other Gods beside me." In a word, completeness is the abso- 
lute utterance of the Godhead ; not the completeness of the 
Catholic bigot, or of the Quaker, which is a pretended one, 
obtained by negation of God-given tendencies ; but the com- 
pleteness of the sea, which hath a smile as unspeakable as the 

Independent Beauty. 141 

darkness of its wrath. ; the completeness of earth, whose every 
atom is a microcosm ; the completeness of the human body, 
where all relations are resumed at once and dominated. As 
the monarch rises out of savage manhood a plumed Czar, 
embellishing his short-comings with the sensuous livery of pro- 
mise, yet, entering the phase of developed thought and con- 
scious vigor, stands the eagle-eyed and grey-coated Bonaparte, 
so will every development of real humanity pass through the 
phase of non-demonstrable embellishment, which is a false 
completeness, to the multiform organization which responds to 
every call. 

I hold the human body, therefore, to be a multiform com- 
mand. Its capacities are the law and gauge of manhood as 
connected with earth. T hold the blessings attendant upon 
obedience to this command, to be the yea, yea ; the woe con- 
sequent upon disobedience, the nay, nay, of the Godhead. 
These God daily speaketh to him whose eyes and ears are open. 
Other than these I have not heard. When, therefore, the life 
of man shall have been made to respond to the command which 
is in his being, giving the catholic result of a sound collective 
mind in a sound aggregate body, he will organize his human 
instrument or art for its human purpose, even as he shall have 
adapted his human life to the divine instrument which was 
given him. I wish to be clear ; the instrument or body being 
of divine origin, we formulate rashly when we forego it, before 
thoroughly responding to its requirement. That it is in itself 

142 Relative and 

no final or complete entity is herein manifest, that it changes. 
The significance of yesterday, to-day, and. to-morrow, is this, 
that we are in a state of development. Now, the idea of deve- 
lopment necessarily supposes incompleteness ; now, complete- 
ness can know no change. The instrument of body is no hap- 
hazard datum, given as an approximation, whose short-comings 
we are to correct by convention, arbitrium, and whim, but an 
absolute requirement, and only then responding to the divine 
intention when its higher nature shall be unfolded bv hio-h 
function, even as the completeness of the brute responds to the 
requirement of his lower nature. 

Internecine war is the law of brute existence. War ! The 
lion lives not by food alone. "Behold, how he pines and dwin- 
dles as he growls over his butcher's meat ! It is in the stealthy 
march, the ferocious bound, and deadly grapple, tearing palpi- 
tating flesh from writhing bone — a halo of red rain around his 
head — that he finds the completion of his being, in obedience 
to a word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. Now, the 
law of brute life is the law of human life, in so far as the brute 
man is undeveloped in his higher tendencies. They, therefore, 
who, having formulated a credo for infant intelligence, and find- 
ing domination thereby secured, proceed to organize a 'peren- 
nial infancy, that they may enjoy an eternal dominion, will 
sooner or later see their sheep transformed to tigers ; for the 
law of development being a divine law, can only be withstood 
by perishing. If what I have said be true, collective manhood 

Independent Beauty. 143 

will never allow exceptional development to slumber at the 
helm or to abuse the whip. Collective manhood calls for deve- 
lopment. If exceptional development answer — Lo ! ye are but 
wolves, manhood will reply, — Then, have at you ! lie who 
cannot guide, must come down. We feel that we cannot 
remain where we are. 

I have followed this train of remark whither it led me. Let 
us resume. Organization being the passage of intention 
through function to completeness, the expressions of its phases 
are symptoms only. The same philosophy which has cloaked, 
and crippled, and smothered the human body as rebelling 
against its Creator, yet always in vain, because the human 
body, like the Greek hero, says, Strike ! but learn, that philo- 
sophy has set up a theory of beauty by authority, of beauty 
independent of other things than its own mysterious harmony 
with the human soul. Thus, we remark that the human soul, 
so inclined to evil in the moral world, according to the same 
philosophy, is sovereign arbiter of beauty in the sesthetical 
world. The Creator, who formed man's soul with a thirst for 
sin, and his body as a temple of shame, has, therefore, made 
his taste infallible! Let us seek through the whole history of 
arbitrary embellishment to find a resting-place. We shall look 
in vain ; for the introduction of the inorganic into the organized 
is destruction ; its development has ever been a reductio ad 

There is no conceivable function which does not obey an 

144 Relative and 

absolute law. The approximation to that law in material, in 
parts, in their form, color, and relations, is the measure of free- 
dom or obedience to God, in life. The attempt to stamp the 
green fruit, the dawning science, the inchoate life, as final, by 
such exceptional minds and social achievements as have pro- 
duced a wish to remain here, and a call for a tabernacle, these 
are attempts to divide manhood, which is one ; they are 
attempts to swim away from brute man, sinking in the sea of 
fate. They will ever be put to shame ; for the ignorance of 
the ignorant confounds the wise ; for the filth of the filthy 
befouls the clean ; for the poverty of the poor poisons the quiet 
of the possessor. The brute man clings to the higher man ; he 
loves him even as himself; he cannot be shaken off; he must 
be assimilated and absorbed. 

I call, therefore, upon science, in all its branches, to arrest the 
tide of sensuous and arbitrary embellishment, so far as it can 
do it, not negatively by criticism thereof alone, but positively, 
by making the instrument a many-sided response to the multi- 
form demands of life. The craving for completeness will then 
obtain its normal food in results, not the opiate and deadening 
stimulus of decoration. Then will structure and its dependent 
sister arts emerge from the stand-still of ipse dixit, and, like the 
ship, the team, the steam-engine, proceed through phases of 
development towards a response to need. 

The truth of such doctrine, if truth be in it, must share the 
fate of other truth, and offend him whose creed is identified 

Independent Beauty. 145 

with the false ; it must meet the indifference of the many who 
believe that a new truth is born every week for him who can 
afford to advertise. But it must earn a place in the heart of 
him who has sought partial truths with success ; for truths are 
all related. 


In passing through New Haven, a few days since, I visited 
the Trumbull gallery, and was sincerely gratified to find the 
works of my venerable friend collected, cared for, and in the 
keeping of a dignified and permanent corporation. 

I remarked with regret that the building, where these works 
of Col. Trumbull are kept, was in part of combustible material, 
and warmed in a manner which must always be injurious to 
pictures. I am not aware of the wants which placed the gallery 
on the second story, with a wooden floor and a wooden stair- 
case so near the pictures. Whatever ends may have been 
gained by this arrangement, much has been sacrificed to them. 
Had this gallery been located on a ground floor, in a building 
of one story, lighted as at present, with a stone or painted brick 
floor resting upon ventilated cobble stones, I must believe that 
the expense would have been no greater, and the security 

I noted a most interesting ojbject in this gallery, a sketch of 
Major Andre made by himself on the day of his execution. 
This sketch, which is made with a pen, is not of artistic value 

The Trumbull Gallery. 147 

beyond what may be looked for in similar efforts of any edu- 
cated engineer ; but it has a historic and personal interest of a 
high order, and I would venture to hint that it is not properly 
framed considering its value, nor safely kept, if any one con- 
sider its high interest elsewhere. It should form an inseparable 
part of some larger fixture. This suggestion would be both 
uncalled for and ungracious, but for the fact that much larger 
works have in Europe been abstracted from places of public 
resort, and that, too, in spite of a jealous supervision of the 
authorities interested in their preservation. 

It was truly interesting to observe in this collection the small 
studies of Col. Trumbull's pictures for the Rotunda; and since 
I have mentioned these, I cannot refrain from saying a few 
words in relation to the Declaration of Independence, which I 
regard as by far the ablest of these pictures, a work selected by 
John Randolph as the butt of his unscrupulous sarcasm, stig- 
matized by him as the Shin Piece, and almost universally known, 
even now, and mentioned by that ludicrous cognomen. 

I believe I shall be speaking the sense of the artistical body, 
and of cognoscenti in the United States, when I say that the 
"Declaration of Independence" has earned the respect of all, 
the warm interest of such as watch the development of Ameri- 
can Art, and the admiration of those who have tried their own 
hand in wielding a weighty and difficult subject. 

I admire in this composition the skill with which Trumbull 
has collected so many portraits in formal session, without the- 
atrical effort, in order to enliven it, and without falling into bald 

148 The Trumbull Gallery. 

insipidity by adherence to trivial fact. These men are earnest, 
yet full of dignity ; they are firm yet cheerful ; they are gentle- 
men ; and you see at a glance that they meant something very 
serious in pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred 

The left hand of the figure of Adams is awkwardly pushed 
forwards. The left arm of Mr. Jefferson is singularly incorrect 
for so careful a draughtsman as Col. Trumbull. One could 
wisli that the lower limbs of Hancock had been made more 
distinct ; perhaps a slight enlargement and extension of the light 
upon his chair, uniting with the mass of light, would have 
effected this object. Would not the chair itself, in such case, 
be less a spot than it now is in the composition ? 

Those who have seen only the sortie of Gibraltar and the 
battle of Bunker Hill, would scarcely believe that these larger 
works of the Capitol are of the same hand, from their inferiority 
in color and effect. They have a chalky distemper-like tone, 
which is very unpleasing. 

In calling this picture the Shin Piece, Mr. Randolph accused 
a defect of composition. If I understand the gibe, it meant 
that there was an undue prominence and exhibition of legs in 
the work. Now, in point of fact, this is the last charge which 
he should have made ; nay, if Mr. Randolph had any special 
aversion for legs, he owed a tribute of praise to the artist for 
sparing him in that regard, since, of more than forty persons 
who are there assembled, ten only show their legs. The gibe, 
however, took with the house, because the house was, by its 

The Trumbull Gallery. 149 

tedium, prepared for a laugh, and not prepared to do justice to 
the painter. 

The veteran artist, whose feelings were thus wounded, was 
but a few feet distant from the shameless orator. He after- 
wards assured me, with tears in his eyes, that up to that 
moment he had always believed Randolph his personal friend. 
If those who echoed and still echo that paltry jest, will look 
carefully at the Declaration of Independence, they will see that 
the fact of those legs appearing in small-clothes, no longer 
familiar to the eye, calls attention to them in an undue manner, 
and they will rather pity the spirit and the intelligence which 
overlooked this difficulty, than blame the painter for an inevita- 
ble consequence of the change of fashion. 


Burke has developed, at length, the negative examination of 
beauty. He arrives at no result by this course, because nega- 
tive analysis can only attain its object by exhausting negation ; 
which is not possible in this vast field of inquiry. 

When, at last, he affirms, he says roundly that Beauty is a 
positive entity, cognizable by the sense. He proceeds to enu- 
merate the qualities which, he thinks, constitute beauty in visi- 
ble objects. He states these as follows : Smallness, Smooth- 
ness, Gradual Variation, Delicacy, Color. 

Smallness. — One may well be startled at the list of positive 
entities which commences with size, for which, even in trade, 
we have only an approximative standard. The pendulum 
which beats seconds in a given latitude must share the imper- 
fection of the measure of time ; it must feel, more or less, the 
variation of temperature in its dimension. The bare element 
of size exj)lains to me the grandeur of the Alp and the Ele- 
phant, the endearing dependence of the babe, and the attraction 
of the humming-bird ; but the significance of dimension in all 
these cases, and in everv case that I conceive, is a relative sig- 

Burke on the Beautiful. 151 

nificance. When Burke found the sense of the sublime to 
result alike from the contemplation of the orbs that roll in 
space, and the idea of beings that elude the test of the micro- 
scope, I must think that he should have concluded that the 
sublime is no quality in things, having a positive existence, but 
a mental perception of. relation. 

Smoothness. — This, again, is a relative quality. The smooth- 
ness of the teeth, and of a marble or porphyry table, is one ; 
the smoothness of the eye-ball, the brow, the cheek is an- 
other. If any one doubt the organic significance of smoothness, 
let him imao-ine the smoothness of the teeth transferred to the 
lip, that of the eye-ball to the eye-lid, that of the varnished bud 
of April to the petal of the rose in June, that of the billiard- 
ball to the hand of the maiden. Smoothness is mere negation, 
The smoothness of the eye-ball is on the one hand a ball and 
socket smoothness, like that of the head of the femur and the 
acetabulum, a lubricated smoothness. It is on the other hand 
a crystalline smoothness, related to the function of transmit- 
ting light and color. The smoothness of cutlery, as it comes 
from the hand of the artisan, is an organic smoothness. The 
perfection of the polish proclaims the entireness of the promise. 
It begins to lose that polish as soon as its action commences, 
and at last retains mainly the beauty of form. If any one 
doubt that the perception of smoothness is a relative percep- 
tion, let him, for one minute, rub the palms of his hands upon 
sandstone, and then rub them together. 

Gradual Variation. — Variation is characteristic of organic 

152 Burke ok the Beautiful. 

rhythm, whether in the works of nature or those of man ; but 
the perception of gradation is the perception of relation, whether 
the gradation be one of size, or of form, or of tint. To prove 
gradation a positive element of beauty, it would be necessary 
to show that the greater the gradation, or the greater the vari- 
ety of gradation, the greater would be the beauty, an assertion 
to be easily estimated after a glance at the human eye. 

Delicacy. — By delicacy, as an element of beauty, Burke is 
careful to tell us that he does not mean weakness, or any modi- 
fication in the direction of weakness, but only the absence of 
roughness and excessive robustness. Now, it is not apparent 
that he means anything more, by this quality, than a normal 
and healthy apportionment of means to ends ; if he does, then 
has he foisted into the academy the taste of the boudoir and 
the drawing-room, which can only earn respect there as a pupil. 
His delicacy in such case must share the fate of Hogarth's 
" grandeur of the periwig" and be the creature, of convention — 
ridiculous, except in the time, place, and circumstances that 
gave its value. 

If you can establish the opinion that ladies should hobble 
about with difficulty, the crippled foot would please our eyes, 
as it is said to charm those of the Mandarin. If you can prove 
that the human hand was intended as a proclamation of idle- 
ness and effeminacy, the nauseous claws seen in the east, and 
sometimes cultivated by persons in civilized countries, will have 
a suggestive charm. 

Color. — That the modifications of light have an organic 

Burke on the Beautiful. 153 

significance and are not positive elements of beauty, results to 
my mind from the fact that there is a degree of light which sur- 
feits, a want of it which starves the visual organ. The absence 
of color in the teeth is as beautiful as its presence in the lips. 
The contrast of the two heightens each, and exemplifies a 
charm where gradual variation has no place. Now its absence 
in the one case and the presence in the other has an organic 
and functional import and meaning. The dark polish of ice 
and the pure white of snow are alike mechanical defences of 
the permanence of these forms of water. 

I think it of the highest importance that we continue the 
investigation of the functional significance of color, rather than 
close the school with an anodyne formula, because whether the 
eye be adapted to objects in nature, or these to the eye, true it 
is that the relation is a vital one. I will be rash enough to 
confess, that I have an instinctive belief, that the eye is, under 
God, the creature of the sun ; for I find it made in his own 
image, and I seek it in vain in such fishes, for instance, as 
know him not. 

In order to prove that beauty consists of positive elements, 
cognizable by the sense, I think it must be shown, that the 
beauty is in proportion to the presence of the elements, and that 
where these elements are diminished or suppressed for the sake 
of function, beauty shall be diminished in proportion to their 
absence. Now this may be done to the satisfaction of the milli- 
ner or the " petite maitresse" but never to the satisfaction of the 
philosopher or the artist. 

154 Burke on the Beautiful. 

Burke was bold when he invited the world to a feast of 
beauty, with so meagre a bill of fare. With the exception of 
delicacy, by which I know not what he means, in philosophy, I 
believe that all the other elements he has mentioned can be 
exemplified and even combined into the most sickening mani- 
festation of morbid action. Skin disease and imposthume will 
display them all, and force the student to go farther for the 
secret of beauty, even at the risk of faring worse. 

It is natural to suppose that the soul of any civilization will 
find utterance in its statement of what its love is and should be. 
Have not theories of beauty been invented to fit " spoon 
fashion " certain systems of politics and morals ? Is it not from 
an unconscious desire to constitute and limit the good that we 
seek the good with such starveling formulas ? I believe the 
Beautiful to be the promise and announcement of the good ; to 
seek the semblance thereof, rather than the true, has been, is, 
and must be the occupation of such as seek the beautiful only 
in pursuit of the good. 

He who seeks the beautiful in the stupendous system of 
nature, will seek in vain for a positive entity, whose elements, 
cognizable by sense, can be set down like the ingredients of a 
dish, or the inventory of a portmanteau. I doubt if he ever 
find anything more tangible than the human soul ; if he does 
I will venture to predict that it will be somewhat more than 
small, smooth, gradually varied, delicate, and of pleasing color. 

To the generality of men the sight of a skull, whether of 
man or beast, is rather painful. They view it in relation to 

Burke on the Beautiful. ]55 

disorganization, of which we all have an instinctive horror. 
Why, then, to the anatomist and the artist is the skull a beau- 
tiful, a sublime object ? Because they have minutely investi- 
gated its relation to life. All its forms, surfaces, and dimen- 
sions speak of its former contents, vesture, and capacities. That 
pale spheroidal dome is a model of the globe, those lack-lustre 
eyeless holes beneath, speak of the heavens ; they echo the dis- 
tant sun. 

Why, in the crowded thoroughfare, do we pass nine men in 
ten without emotion, and as if they were not ? Why are we 
so patiently incurious respecting the myriads of human beings 
who have laid the basis of our actual being ? Why in the 
first sight of a foreign city, whose language is as unknown to 
us as its streets, does the heart shrink back on itself? Why, 
in such position, does the coin in our pockets assume an im- 
portance unfelt before? In all cases because of relation. This 
it is that makes the Austrian prince* spurn, as less than man, 
all beneath the barons. This it is which melts the divine 
Saviour into tenderness at the sight of sin and sorrow. The 
positive sound of cannon is not much ; it is relation that makes 
the growl of the morning gun at Gibraltar the voice of the 
British lion, and, therefore, does the responsive thunder of 
Ceuta sound a good morrow from the African shore. When, 
in the breathless court, the word "guilty" drops from the lips 
of the foreman, why does it ring satisfaction to the ear of the 

* Der Menscli feengt mit dem Baron an. — Dictum of "Windischgratz. 

156 Burke on the Beautiful. 

stern attorney, and for the prisoner at the bar strike the larum 
of despair ? It is the relative import of things that character- 
izes their perception, and that with which we have no relation, 
for us is not. 

With what positive result do we, then, close this review of 
Mr. Burke's position ? With a conviction which, if it be well 
grounded, is not only of artistic but of general importance. In a 
world of dependence and of relation to a being like man, whose 
isolated mind collapses to idiocy, whose isolated body is the 
slave of its lower want, that which is fitted to one relation is 
therefore unfitted for another and different relation. That which 
is beautiful in one connexion is therefore deformed in another 
and different connexion. To deal with relative elements, as if 
they were positive, is to insure discord and disorganization — for 
as the charm of rhyme resides not in " dove" or " love," but in 
the perception of the dependence of sound, — as the charm of 
verse lies not in its positive structure, but in the relation it bears 
to the thought, and the breath that makes it heard, so has all 
that sways the mind, the heart, the sense of man, only a rela- 
tive and dependent being. 

The entire gamut of visual qualities in objects, is, therefore, 
a language, a tongue, whose vocabulary must be learned, word 
by word, and which has already been mastered to an extent 
that justifies the surmise, that its elements have force from their 
relation, and not from positive existence; since God alone 
truly is. 


To many minds the definition of Beauty as the promise of 
function, must appear an excessive generalization. To many 
minds such expanse dilutes all substance, and leaves but their 
air as a result. Yet is this generalization but an effort to 
grasp a wider collection of phenomena, and, if developed, it is 
not certain that it will prove other than a step to a wider and 
a higher generalization. 

Hogarth's ingenious plea for his line of beauty, holds good 
with regard to the spinal column and the necks of long necked 
birds and beasts. It is the line of moving water, of flowing 
draperies, and of many pleasing vegetable forms, but if we 
drop from the flank of the horse where we find it, to the shank 
which is thin, straight, and hard, we get a new sense of 
beauty, and not a sacrifice thereof. With Hogarth's formula in 
hand we must accept the vagaries of Bernini, and condemn the 
Greek peristyle and pediment. This famed line is truly in- 
dicative of motion, of the double element of inertia or resist- 
ance on the one hand, and of a moving power on the other. 
From its inevitable significance and uniformity of expression, it 

158 Criticism in Search of Beauty. 

becomes monotonous by repetition, incongruous and imperti- 
nent wherever such double action is out of place. Transfer the 
waving line of a horse's flank to his metatarsal bone, and you 
have a cripple. Transfer the double curve of a swan's neck to 
his bill, and you have an impotent and therefore ridiculous 

The right line is perhaps susceptible of more various signi- 
ficance than any other line whatever. The right line vertical, 
as seen in the pendent chain, is indicative of utter flexibility ; in 
the staff whose base is buried, of stark rigidity. Horizontal, it 
proclaims equal support throughout its length, whether from 
its own consistence or from extraneous prop. Inclined, it de- 
clares a double thrust in opposite directions. Observe the 
folds of linen that drop, like organ pipes, from the girdle of 
Pallas; transfer your eye to yonder spear on which Adonis 
leans ; remark how nearly identical are the forms, how directly 
reversed is the expression of these cylindrical shapes ! Such 
forms have therefore a force and a. speech analogous to the 
virtues of the vocabulary. Their significance is relative and 
dependent. They may not be safely used as positive entities. 

Let us dwell, for a moment, upon one of the chief means of 
embellishment, the adoption of the sequence and rhythm of 
organization, as an sesthetical element of positive import, apart 
from all requirement, save the craving of the eye. The leaf, 
the flower, the chain — the contorted spiral of the cable, the 
alternations of the woven withe of the basket, have, among 
other similar functional arrangements, been pressed into the 

Criticism in Search op Beauty. 159 

service of the decorator, to fill that vacuum which the heart 
of man abhors. The eye responds inevitably to the sensuous 
charm, and the associated expression of these forms ; but, if 
we reflect deeply on the source of this gratification, we shall 
detect their real character. Thus enjoyed, this rhythm is never 
truly generative ; — for, if the organizations they were intended 
to complete, had no requirement of their oivn, whose spaces 
and means have been usurped by their quotations, then I affirm 
that these extraneous and irrelevant forms invade that silence 
which alone is worthy of man, when there is nothing to be 
said. To my sense, therefore, these forms only accuse a vacuum. 
They accuse it credibly, and the eye assents to them ; but 
though they accuse they do not Jill it, since the more we get 
of them the more we ask, until performance reels and slavery dies, 
under the requirement. Such is the result of dealing with 
the relative and finite, as if it were a positive, a divine being. 

What is the real meaning of that vast aggregation of mar- 
ble and gilding — of silks and jewels, of glass and metal, of 
carved and painted embellishment which is called St. Peter's 
church ? Throwing and holding aloft the gilded symbol of 
self-sacrifice and love to man, whose glimmer flashes on the 
one hand to the gulf of Geneva, on the other to the waves of 
the Adriatic, is it not a giant's attempt to scale the heavens? 
— the affirmation of the positive in the relative — a mechanical 
assertion of spirit — an attempt at arithmetical demonstration 
that Christ's kingdom is of this world ? When, amid the 
gorgeous retinue of bedizened prelates, the triple crowned 

160 Criticism in Search of Beauty. 

Pontiff, crippled by weight of frippery, is borne on subject 
shoulders to that balcony, when the peacocks' tails are waved 
about his head, and he utters his presumptuous blessing, 
" Urbi et Orbi," — while kneeling troops clash their weapons as 
they go down, and trumpets laugh and cannons thunder from 
the fortress of the Holy Angel ; — when the sense and the 
imagination is thus appealed to in base assertion, what is the 
practical result ? What are the fruits, by which alone this 
tree must at last be judged ? The perfumed sweetness of that 
vast pile hath cured no yellow and swollen victim of Pontine 
miasma. The weight of that expenditure hath crushed to 
earth the denizens of the patrimony of St. Peter ; since Mary 
must bring daily the precious ointment for a Christ who is 
always with us ; and whose worldly pomp outvies the arro- 
gance of kings. For each effeminate warbling of soprano 
Latin praise to God in the temple, there go up a thousand 
curses of tyrants, in the vernacular, from the thoroughfare, 
the hovel, and the dungeon. When was the absolute other 
than the paramour of the expedient ? Would the papal cross 
at this moment stand but for the piled dollars of the Israelite 
where it has been pawned ? 

To what, at length, is the size of St. Peter's church related ? 
Is it a lodging for prayer ? Christ has recommended a closet. 
Is it to receive the laity of the earth ? All earth is a temple to 
him who looks upward, and naught less will suffice for man. 
The size of St. Peter's church is, therefore, a pretension. It 
affirms of the tree its 1 its soil, and its branches ; and 

Criticism in Search of Beauty. 161 

these it measures. As a result of nearly two thousand years, 
preaching of the doctrine of self-sacrifice and the laying up of 
treasure in Heaven, it is a reductio ad absurdum. 

Criticism has shaped another theory of Beauty. The 
beautiful has been defined as a result of the combination of 
Uniformity with Variety. This combination is indeed uni- 
versally found in organization, whether in the works of nature 
or of man ; but the theory asserts too much, since, if true, 
beauty can be produced by mere mechanical means, and 
England would make it with steam power, and flood the globe 
therewith. This theory is sustained in the hope of divorcing 
the beautiful and the good. It is sustained in the hope of 
giving the former and receiving the latter. The sensuous 
adjunct of intention, when divorced from that intention, loses 
at once its virtue, and retains its charm only so long as its 
emptiness is unsuspected. The smile of benevolence may be 
assumed also, and may pass currently with the world, but if too 
many practise this beautiful art, frowns will at last come to be 
in fashion. 

"When Homer would give us the idea of womanly charm in 
Helen, he seeks no positive ingredients to wake our enthusiasm. 
He makes the princess to pass through a crowd of aged men, 
who are reviling her as the cause of their woe, and at her aspect 
they are hushed in mute admiration. "When she has passed 
away, they swear with one accord that such a vision is worth 
the ten years' war, and the burning of the ships and the slaugh- 
ter of the men. Achilles, who remains in every scholar's mind 


162 Criticism in Search of Beauty. 

the type of manly beauty, is painted as swift of foot, and the 
most beautiful of all the Greeks who went to Troy. These 
beauties, then, have been created by relation in our own minds, 
and we have done the work with the bard ; and it is because 
that work is a delight that we love him. If criticism had other 
than a negative power we might reproduce the phenomena of 
a Shakspeare or a Dante. It is because the speech of these 
men is inalienably theirs, related more to themselves than to 
the positive, that we may hope to approach the latter rather 
than to repeat them. 

The creation of beauty in art, as in other forms of poetry, is 
a welling up from the depths of the soul, not a scientific syn- 
thesis. There has been in England, since 1815, more discussion 
of sesthetical doctrine, more analysis, experiment, and dogged 
determination to effect somewhat in art, than attended the 
birth of the Florentine school ; but always in the main impo- 
tent, because the governing intellect of England has held art to 
be a thing, a plant growing by human knowledge with gold 
for its nutriment. Art is not a thing, but a form, a develop- 
ment of man — "La vostra Arte quasi di Dio e nipote." The 
artistic power, whatever it be, has no positive existence. Like 
the organ in our churches, on week-days, it stands dumb and 
dead till the constituency drive through its pipes the health of 
life, and minister to its requirement. 

I will seek to make clearer what I have said by a rapid 
glance at the career of pictorial art. In the great works of the 
Roman and Florentine schools we behold the highest develop- 

Criticism in Search of Beauty. 163 

ment of thought and feeling in the pictorial form. These great 
masters always based their creations upon tangible, palpable, 
every-day truth. The mother bears her babe, the Saviour 
embraces his cross. The heavens, as they open, reflect earth, 
and worship the Deity with words of human speech. Titian, 
in his color, is not less true to the concrete. As art declined, 
we find the process to be one of separating the sensuously 
pleasing from its organic relation ; till, in Luca Giordano and 
Boucher, we find a chaos of bombast, falsehood, and clogging 
sensuality. This farrago corrupted still further the appetite 
that demanded it, and Boucher had for a successor a worse than 
Boucher, till utter impotence gave at length silence and repose. 
There is a sensation analogous to the sense of beauty, which 
is effected somewhat independent of function, nay running 
oftentimes counter to the requirement of function. This is the 
offspring of the fashion, the mode, omnipotent for an hour, 
contemptible when that hour is passed. I have yet to see any 
solid reason for receiving nine-tenths of the architectural fea- 
tures of our actual structures as other than a servile obeisance 
to this despotic requirement from abroad. He whose eye is 
tickled by the play of light and shadow, and the merely pictur- 
esque projections of the present fashion, will be inclined to 
flout me when I hint that these are a jargon and no tongue. 
Their features, which seem of such significance, will, however, 
inevitably turn out, at last, like the cant phrases of the rabble, 
to mean whatever you please, merely because they mean 
nothing. Once adopt the principles by which alone they can 

] 64 Criticism in Search op Beauty. 

be defended, and there is no bar between you and the prolific 
silliness of Borromini, excepting the want of funds. These 
feats have effected what I once believed impossible ; they have 
made the sober and the true enamored of the old, bald, neutral- 
toned, Yankee farm house which seems to belong to the ground 
whereon it stands, as the caterpillar to the leaf that feeds him. 
The expression of life, which is what we all crave, can only 
be obtained by living. I have seen a clergyman of the esta- 
blished church, who long appeared to me an overgrown auto- 
maton, in which the digestive apparatus was exaggerated. He 
was an incarnation of vicarious being. He seemed to have 
been taken into the world and done for. Inoffensive was he — 
well-begotten and respectable ; for he had been educated among 
scholars — dressed by a tailor, and dressed well — shaved by a 
barber, and well shorn — insured by a solvent company here 
below — saved by his Saviour in the world to come, so that one 
saw no obstacle to his translation to another sphere except his 
weight. Yet was all this only apparent, for no sooner was a 
trout stream mentioned than the kaleidoscope revolved, the fog 
rolled from before his eyes, and he became animated and alert. 
There was after all an agendum. Now it is clear that this man 
was a crushed individuality, born out of time or place. Like 
the potato which has sprouted in the crypt, this poor soul had 
sent its pale elongated shoot through darkness and prohibition, 
till it found the light and air of freedom at a cranny, when it 
instantly assumed its color, threw out its leaves and was — a 
human otter. 

Criticism in Search of Beauty. 165 

If it were true that the sense of beauty in nature and in art 
finds its nourishment in the pleasing, independent of other than 
its own relation to the innate craving of man ; if it were true 
that beauty is a tertium quid thrown into ingredients in them- 
selves indifferent, to fill a psychological vacuum, — as salt and 
sugar are added to compounds which offend through acid or 
pall by insipidity, then should we behold professors of beauty, 
who would translate into the vulgar tongue what Mahomet 
meant by his houris, what the Northmen meant by drinking 
beer in skulls, what the Indian meant by his happy hunting 
grounds, what the Christian preacher means by that which 
" eye hath not seen nor ear heard V The man possessed of 
this catholicon would be able to adorn and sanctify the hum- 
blest, the most repulsive details of life. These details are, in 
fact, adorned and sanctified to man — not by any combination 
of uniformity with variety, or waving line, or other like futile 
mechanical grasp at the unspeakable, but by their relation to 
" things hoped for" 

The men who, in Greece and Italy, earned a remembrance as 
creators of the beautiful, were most untiring students of organi- 
zation, of the relations of antecedence and consequence. More 
has been said about the art of pleasing by ingenious English- 
men and Frenchmen than can be found in all the disquisitions 
of Leonardo, or Leon Batista, Alberti, or Raffaello. How does 
he of Urbino, who has held the world captive, define the beau- 
tiful which was his magic sceptre ? He says, in plain words, 

166 Criticism in Search of Beauty. 

that it was a " certa idea che ho nella mente," a certain idea 
that I have in my mind. 

The skilful analysis of the relations of color and sound in 
their modifications, to the rhythm of organization, tending 
without doubt to assist our conception of all related things, is 
but the servant and never the master of creative mind. Deal- 
ing with such elements only as the reason has incarnated in 
propositions, they have in that incarnation dropped all divinity 
which is unspeakable, and have taken their humble place among 
things. Such results are but the record of a mental, as the foot- 
print of man is the record of a physical function, proclaiming, 
it is true, the beauty of the related parts which achieved the 
step, but impotent as a creative power. As well may you hope 
to beget eloquence of pure grammar, as music of science, or 
beautv of things. 

Organization and dissolution ; these are the two poles of the 
divine magnet, and to the pure intelligence the one is as har- 
monious a speech as the other, since it is its correlative. That 
the sense revolts at the phenomena of disorganization proves 
only the relation of the body to things ; but that relation being 
a divine datum, the marriage of the sensuous phenomena of life 
to the action of decay, cannot be other than poisonous and 

Is the display which has lantern-led princes and people 
other than a rhythm of disorganization sensuously enjoyed 
because its functional significance was not apparent? If the 
moral and political phenomena attendant upon vigorous 

Criticism in Search of Beauty. 167 

attempts after beauty, independent of function, had not been 
constant and unvarying, I should doubt any mental induction 
that accused such import in adornment. Luxury and decay 
have not been separated, and the only terms on which both can 
be long kept up, is to regard the crucified homo as a symbol 
of collective man made the grovelling basis of exceptional 
development and well-being. 

Whence is derived the attraction of the play-house and the 
opera ? I believe that these fruits of civilization are pleasing, 
but, to the mass, sensuous special pleadings against the dogma 
which, condemning the body, commands us to perish. Feeling 
a void in our hearts, amid the negative requirements of the law- 
giver and the priest, we ask the spectacle at least of untram- 
melled life, and hire the dancing girl to give a vicarious grace 
and joy, driven from among us by a sour and one-sided dogma. 
Now, it will be apparent to reflection and to the heart, that the 
dancing girl is degraded by representing a fraction of huma- 
nity. The greater her beauty, the more perfect the response of 
her limbs and the vivacity of her foot to the joyous notes of 
the composer, the greater the degradation. That divine instru- 
ment before us is the representative of womanhood, and is 
degraded by aught less than true woman's life. Not with 
impunity, therefore, shall we gaze upon her in that monstrous 
relation, for, though we may forget it, yet is she nevertheless our 
sister. There is here a sin, and a grievous sin — not in the light 
of that eve that flashes, not in the music of that frame that 
takes captive the sense, not in the panting of that, perhaps, 

168 Criticism in Search of Beauty. 

virgin bosom, but in the hireling divorce of these phenomena 
from their normal and organic sequence in human life. There 
lies the prostitution — there the selfishness and the vice, and 
therefore the destruction. 

The East Indian bigot who seeks to please God by main- 
taining one posture till the articulations have stiffened him to a 
monument of monomania and the paid exponent of youthful 
joy and desire — these are extreme expressions of a prohibition 
to live. As the one kills by checking function, so the other 
destroys by the inculcation of vicarious life. I will close this 
statement by an affirmation which formerly could not have 
been spoken without perishing in the flames ; and which, even 
now, cannot perhaps be spoken with impunity. That which 
the human being was made to bear, the human being was not 
made to bear the want of. 

To follow blindly the dictates of sense and instinctive crav- 
ing — that is, to be a brute and not a man ; to deny the prompt- 
ings of sense and instinctive craving, that is to perish. Behold 
the absolute. Between these lies human life — an existence for 
which no revelation will ever afford a mechanical rule or abso- 
lute dogma, without its immediate translation from time to 
eternity ; for to seek the true — this is truly to live in time 
which only is through succession of phenomena to find it — 
this will be to repose in the bosom of omniscience, for where 
all is absolutely right nothing can change. Since truth is not 
a series of approximations, but an arrival and a result. 

Therefore do I feel that this American people is the advanced 

Criticism in Search of Beauty. 169 

guard of humanity. Because it is one vast interrogation. 
Never affirming but when there is need of action ; in its affirm- 
ation conceding that the minority represents a sacred human 
want not yet articulate to the aggregate ear ; it gives peace 
and good will in proportion to the universality of the wants to 
which it ministers. If the passion displayed in the alternation 
of hope and fear fright the timid and skeptical, the lull of the 
storm, when the sovereignty has spoken, is full of hope for a 
distant futurity, for it proves that our political constitution, like 
the human frame, is not less wonderfully than fearfully made, 


It is useless to regret that discussions of principle involve, to a 
certain extent, persons also. If this were not, on the whole, a 
-good arrangement, principles would have been furnished with 
a better lodging. I take it, that passions and interests are the 
great movers and steadiers of the social world, and that prin- 
ciples, like the bread on Sir John Falstaff's score, are an uncon- 
scionably small item. 

The working forces and restraints are, like the furnaces and 
engines, the lock up and lock out of the mint at Philadelphia, 
all very effective for their objects. A showy front masks all 
these things, and adorns Chesnut street by the maimed quota- 
tion of a passage of Greek eloquence, relating to something 
else. A huge brick chimney rising in the rear, talks English, 
and warns you that the facade is to be taken with some grains 
of allowance. 

The domain of Taste is eminently one of free discussion. In 
most civilized countries, the individual is restrained by the 
magistracy from offending the public eye, by unsightly or ill- 
timed exhibitions of any very peculiar dogma of his own, 

Structure and Organization. 171 

because it is thought that the harm thus done to the public is 
not compensated by the gratification of the unit. Still, he is 
allowed to maintain his theory by any means short of an inva- 
sion of the public sense of propriety. 

One unaccustomed to trace the influence of associated ideas, 
of example, and of authority, would naturally suppose that 
each climate, each creed and form of Government, would stamp 
its character readily and indelibly upon the structures of a 
thinking population. It is not so. It is only by degrees that 
leisure and wealth find means to adapt forms, elsewhere invented, 
to new situations and new wants. 

When civilization gradually developes an indigenous type, 
the complex result still carries the visible germ whence it 
sprang. The harmony of the Chinese structures indicates a 
oneness of origin and modification. The sign-manual of the 
Sultan is but the old mark pompously flourished. There is a 
blood-relationship between the pipe of the North American 
savage and the temples of Central America. 

In the architecture of Greece, of Italy, and of the more recent 
civilizations on the other hand, we remark a struggle between 
an indigenous type, born of the soil and of the earlier wants of 
a people, and an imported theory which, standing upon a 
higher artistic ground, captivates the eye and wins the approval 
of dawning taste. If my limits permitted, it were not amiss to 
trace this conquest of refinement, and to follow it out also, in 
relation to literature, and to dress, and amusements. The least 
effort of memory will suggest numerous invasions of artistic 

172 Structure and Organization. 

theory upon primitive expedients, conflicts between the home- 
grown habit which has possession, and exotic theory w r hich 
seeks it. 

There is one feature in all the great developments of archi- 
tecture which is worthy to occupy us for a moment. They are 
all fruits of a dominating creed. If we consider how vast was 
the outlay they required, we shall not wonder that religion 
alone has thus far been able to unite, in a manner to wield 
them, the motives and the means for grand and consistent 
systems of structure. The magnificence of the Romans, the 
splendor of Venice and Genoa, like the ambitious efforts of 
France, England, and Germany in more recent days, had a cer- 
tain taint of dilettantism in their origin, which, aiming to com- 
bine inconsistent qualities, and that for a comparatively low 
motive, carried through all their happiest combinations the 
original sin of impotence, and gave as a result, bombast instead 
of eloquence, fritter instead of richness, boldness for simplicity, 
carving in lieu of sculpture. The laws of expression are such 
that the various combinations which have sought to lodge 
modern functions in buildings composed of ancient elements, 
developed and perfected for other objects, betray, in spite of all 
the skill that has been brought to bear upon them, their bastard 
origin. In literature, the same struggle between the ancient 
form so dear to scholars, and the modern thought which was 
out-growing it, was long and obstinate. In literature the battle 
has been won by the modern thought. The models of Greece 
are not less prized for this. We seek them diligently, we 

Structure and Organization. 173 

ponder them with delight and instruction. We assimilate all 
of their principles that is true and beautiful, and we learn of 
them to belong to our day and to our nation, as they to theirs. 

In all structure that from its nature is purely scientific, in 
fortifications, in bridges, in ship-building, we have been eman- 
cipated from authority by the stern organic requirements of the 
works. The modern wants spurned the traditional formula in 
these structures, as the modern life outgrew the literary moulds 
of Athens. In all these structures, character has taken the 
place of dilettantism, and if we have yet to fight for sound 
doctrine in all structure, it is only because a doctrine which has 
possession must be expelled, inch by inch, however unsound its 

The developments of structure, in the animal kingdom, are 
worthy of all our attention, if we would arrive at sound prin- 
ciples in building. The most striking feature in the higher 
animal organizations is, the adherence to one abstract type. 
The forms of the fish and the lizard, the shape of the horse, 
and the lion, and the camelopard, are so nearly framed after 
one type, that the adherence thereto seems carried to the verge 
of risk. The next most striking feature is the modification of 
the parts, which, if contemplated independently of the exposure 
and the functions whose demands are thus met, seems carried 
to the verge of caprice. I believe few persons not conversant 
with natural history, ever looked through a collection of birds, 
or fish, or insects, without feeling that they were the result of 
Omnipotence at play, for mere variety's sake. 

1*74 Structure and Organization. 

If there be any principle of structure more plainly inculcated 
in the works of the Creator than all others, it is the principle of 
unflinching adaptation of forms to functions. I believe that 
colors also, so far as we have discovered their chemical causes 
and affinities, are not less organic in relation to the forms they 
invest than are those forms themselves. 

If I find the length of the vertebrae of the neck in grazing 
quadrupeds increased, so as to bring the incisors to the grass ; 
if I find the vertebrae shortened in beasts of prey, in order to 
enable the brute to bear away his victim ; if I find the wading 
birds on stilts, the strictly aquatic birds with paddles ; if, in 
pushing still further the investigation, I find color arrayed 
either for disguise or aggression, I feel justified in taking the 
ground that organization is the primal law of structure, and I 
suppose it, even where my imperfect light cannot trace it, unless 
embellishment can be demonstrated. Since the tints as well 
as the forms of plants and flowers, are shown to have an orga- 
nic significance and value, I take it for granted that tints have 
a like character in the mysteriously clouded and pearly shell, 
where they mock my ken. I cannot believe that the myriads 
are furnished at the depths of the ocean, with the complicated 
glands and absorbents, to nourish those dyes, in order that the 
hundreds may charm my idle eye as they are tossed in disor- 
ganized ruin upon the beach. 

Let us dwell for a moment upon the forms of several of the 
higher types of animal structure. Behold the eagle, as he sits 
on the lonely cliff, towering high in the air ; carry in your mind 

Structure and Organization. 175 

the proportions and lines of the dove, and mark how the finger 
of God has, by the mere variation of diameters, converted the 
type of meekness into the most expressive symbol of majesty. 
His eye, instead of rushing as it were out of his head, to see 
the danger behind him, looks steadfastly forward from its deep 
cavern, knowing no danger but that which it pilots. The struc- 
ture of his brow allows him to fly upwards with his eyes in shade. 
In his beak and his talons we see at once the belligerent, in the 
vast expanse of his sailing pinions the patent of his prerogative. 
Dei Gratia Raptor ! Whence the beauty and majesty of the 
bird ? It is the oneness of his function that gives him his 
grandeur, it is transcendental mechanism alone that begets his 
beauty. Observe the lion as he stands ! Mark the ponderous 
predominance of his anterior extremities — his lithe loins, the 
lever of his hock — the awful breadth of his jaws, and the depth 
of his chest. His mane is a cuirass, and when the thunder of his 
voice is added to the glitter of his snarling jaws, man alone 
with all his means of defence stands self-possessed before him. 
In this structure again are beheld, as in that of the eagle, the 
most terrible expression of power and dominion, and we find 
that it is here also the result of transcendental mechanism. 
The form of the hare might well be the type of swiftness for 
him who never saw the greyhound. The greyhound overtakes 
him, and it is not possible in organization that this result 
should obtain, without the promise and announcement of it, in 
the lengths and diameters of this breed of dogs. 

Let us now turn to the human frame — the most beautiful 

1*76 Structure and Organization. 

organization of earth, the exponent and minister of the highest 
being we immediately know. This stupendous form, towering 
as a light-house, commanding by its posture a wide horizon, 
standing in relation to the brutes where the spire stands in rela- 
tion to the lowly colonnades of Greece and Egypt, touching earth 
with only one half the soles of its feet — it tells of majesty and 
dominion by that upreared spine, of duty by those unencum- 
bered hands. Where is the ornament of this frame ? It is all 
beauty, its motion is grace, no combination of harmony ever 
equalled, for expression and variety, its poised and stately gait ; 
its voice is music, no cunning mixture of wood and metal ever 
did more than feebly imitate its tone of command or its warble 
of love. The savage who envies or admires the special attri- 
butes of beasts, maims unconsciously his own perfection, to 
assume their tints, their feathers, or their claws ; we turn from 
him with horror, and gaze with joy on the naked Apollo. 

I have dwelt a moment on these examples of expression and 
of beauty, that I may draw from them a principle in Art, a 
principle which, if it has been often illustrated by brilliant 
results, we constantly see neglected, overlooked, forgotten — a 
principle which I hope the examples I have given have pre- 
pared you to accept at once, and unhesitatingly. It is this — 
in Art, as in nature, the soul, the purpose of a w r ork will never 
fail to be proclaimed in that work in proportion to the subor- 
dination of the parts to the whole, of the whole to the function. 
If you will trace the ship through its various stages of improve- 
ment, from the dug-out canoe and the old galley, to the latest 

Structure and Organization. 177 

type of the sloop-of-war, you will remark that every advance in 
performance has been an advance in expression, in grace, in 
beauty, or grandeur, according to the functions of the craft. 
This artistic gain, effected by pure science in some respects, in 
others by mere empirical watching of functions where the ele- 
ments of the structure were put to severe tests, calls loudly 
upon the artist to keenly watch traditional dogmas, and to see 
how far analogous rules may guide his own operations. You 
will remark, also, that after mechanical power had triumphed 
over the earlier obstacles, embellishment began to encumber 
and hamper ships, and that their actual approximation to 
beauty has. been effected first, by strict adaptation of forms to 
functions ; second, by the gradual elimination of all that is irre- 
levant and impertinent. The old chairs were formidable by 
their weight, puzzled you by their carving, and often contained 
too much else to contain convenience and comfort. The most 
beautiful chairs invite you by a promise of ease, and they keep 
that promise ; they bear neither flowers nor dragons, nor idle 
displays of the turner's caprice. By keeping within their pro- 
vince they are able to fill it well. Organization has a language 
of its own, and so expressive is that language, that a make-shift 
or make-believe can scarce fail of detection. The swan, the 
goose, the duck, when they walk towards the water are awk- 
ward, when they hasten towards it are ludicrous. Their feet 
are paddles, and their legs are organized mainly to move those 
paddles in the water ; they, therefore, paddle on land, or as we 
sav, waddle. It is onlv when their breasts are launched into 


178 Structure and Organization. 

the pond that their necks assume the expression of ease and 
grace. A serpent, upon a smooth hard road, has a similar 
awkward expression of impotence ; the grass, or pebbles, or 
water, as he meets either, afford him his sine qua non, and he 
is instantly confident, alert, effective. 

If I err not, we should learn from these and the like exam- 
ples, which will meet us wherever we look for them, that God's 
world has a distinct formula for every function, and that we 
shall seek in vain to borrow shapes ; we must make the shapes, 
and can only effect this by mastering the principles. 

It is a confirmation of the doctrine of strict adaptation that 
I find in the purer Doric temple. The sculptures which adorned 
certain spaces in those temples had an organic relation to the 
functions of the edifice ; they took possession of the worshipper 
as he approached, lifted him out of every-day life, and prepared 
him for the presence of the divinity within. The w T orld has 
never seen plastic art developed so highly as by the men who 
translated into marble in the tympanum and the metope; the 
theogony and the exploits of the heroes. Why, then, those 
columns uncarved? Why, then, those lines of cornice un- 
broken by foliages, unadorned by flowers? Why, that match- 
less symmetry of eveiy member, that music of gradation, with- 
out the tracery of the gothic detail, without the endless caprices 
of arabesque ? Because those sculptures spake, and speech 
asks a groundwork of silence and not of babble, though it were 
of green fields. 
, I am not about to deny the special beauties and value of any 

Structure and Organization. 179 

of the great types of building. Each has its meaning and 
expression. I am desirous now of analysing that majestic and 
eloquent simplicity of the Greek temple, because, though I 
truly believe that it is hopeless to transplant its forms with any 
other result than an expression of impotent dilettantism, still I 
believe that its principles will be found to be those of all struc- 
tures of the highest order. 

When I gaze upon the stately and beautiful Parthenon, I do 
not wonder at the greediness of the moderns to appropriate it. 
I do wonder at the obtuseness which allowed them to persevere 
in trying to make it work in the towns. It seems like the en- 
thusiasm of him who should squander much money to transfer 
an Arabian stallion from his desert home, that, as a blindfolded 
gelding, he might turn his mill. The lines in which Byron paints 
the fate of the butterfly that has fallen into the clutches of its 
childish admirer, would apply not inaptly to the Greek temple, 
at the mercy of a sensible building committee, wisely deter- 
mined to have their money's worth. 

When high art declined, carving and embellishment invaded 
the simple organization. As the South Sea Islanders have 
added a variety to the human form by tattooing, so the cunning 
artisans of Greece undertook to go beyond perfection. Many 
rhetoricians and skilled grammarians refined upon the elements 
of the language of structure. They all spake : and demigods, 
and heroes, and the gods themselves, went away and were 

If we compare the simpler form of the Greek temple with the 

180 Structure and Organization. 

ornate and carved specimens which followed it, we shall be con- 
vinced, whatever the subtlety, however exquisite the taste that 
long presided over those refinements, that they were the begin- 
ning of the end, and that the turning point was the first introduc- 
tion of a fanciful, not demonstrable, embellishment, and for 
this simple reason, that embellishment being arbitrary, there is 
no check upon it; you begin with acanthus leaves, but the 
appetite for sauces, or rather the need of them, increases as the 
palate gets jaded. You want jasper, and porphyry, and ser- 
pentine, and giallo antico, at last. Nay, you are tired of Aris- 
tides the Just, and of straight columns ; they must be spiral, 
and by degrees you find yourself in the midst of a barbaric 
pomp, whose means must be slavery, nothing less will supply 
its waste, whose enjoyment is satiety, whose result is corrup- 

It was a day of danger for the development of taste in this 
land, the day when Englishmen perceived that France was lay- 
ing them under contribution by her artistic skill in manufac- 
ture. They organized reprisals upon ourselves, and, in lieu of 
truly artistic combinations, they have overwhelmed us with 
embellishment, arbitrary, capricious, setting at defiance all 
principle, meretricious dyes and tints, catch-penny novelties of 
form, steam-woven fineries and plastic ornaments, struck with 
the die or pressed into moulds. In even an ordinary house we 
look around in vain for a quiet and sober resting-place for the 
eye ; we see naught but flowers, flourishes — the renaissance 
of Louis Quatorze gingerbread embellishment. We seek 

Structure and Organization. 181 

in vain for aught else. Our own manufacturers have caught 
the furor, and our foundries pour forth a mass of ill-digested 
and crowded embellishment, which one would suppose addres- 
sed to the sympathies of savages or of the colored population, 
if the utter absence of all else in the market were not too 
striking to allow such a conclusion. 

I do not suppose it is possible to check such a tide as that 
which sets all this corruption towards our shores. I am aware 
of the economical sagacity of the English, and how fully they 
understand the market ; but I hope that we are not so through- 
ly asphyxiated by the atmosphere they have created, as to fol- 
low their lead in our own creation of a higher order. I remark 
with joy, that almost all the more important efforts of this land 
tend, with an instinct and a vigor born of the institutions, to- 
wards simple and effective organization ; and they never fail 
whenever they toss overboard the English dictum, and work from 
their own inspirations, to surpass the British, and there, too, 
where the world thought them safe from competition. 

I would fain beg any architect who allows fashion to invade 
the domain of principles, to compare the American vehicles 
and ships with those of England, and he will see that the 
mechanics of the United States have already outstripped the 
artists, and have, by the results of their bold and unflinching 
adaptation, entered the true track, and hold up the light for all 
who operate for American wants, be they what they will. 

In the American trotting waggon I see the old-fashioned and 

182 Structure and Organization. 

pompous coach dealt with as the old-fashioned palatial display 
must yet be dealt with in this land. In vain shall we en- 
deavor to hug the associations connected with the old form. 
The redundant must be pared down, the superfluous dropped, 
the necessary itself reduced to its simplest expression, and then 
we shall find, whatever the organization may be, that beauty 
was waiting for us, though perhaps veiled, until our task was 
fully accomplished. 

Far be it from me to pretend that the style pointed out by 
our mechanics is what is sometimes miscalled an economical, 
a cheap style. No ! It is the dearest of all styles ! It costs 
the thought of men, much, very much thought, untiring 
investigation, ceaseless experiment. Its simplicity is not the 
simplicity of emptiness or of poverty, its simplicity is that of just- 
ness, I had almost said, of justice. Your steam artisan would fill 
your town with crude plagiarisms, calquis upon the thefts from 
Pompeii or modern Venice, while the true student is determining 
the form and proportions of one article. 

Far be it from me to promise any man that when he has 
perfected the type of any artistic product, he shall reap the 
fruit of his labor in fame or money. He must not hope it. 
Fame and money are to be had in plenty ; not in going against 
the current, but in going with it. It is not difficult to conceive 
that the same state of the popular taste which makes the cor- 
rupted style please, will render the reformed style tasteless. It 
is not possible to put artistic products to a test analogous to 

Structure and Organization^ 183 

that which tries the ship and the carnage, but by a lapse of time. 
True it is, that society always reserves a certain number of minds 
and of eyes unpoisoned by the vogue of the hour, and in the 
sympathy of these must the artist often find his chief reward 
in life. 


It is with great reluctance, nay, with grief, that I have under- 
taken to speak of this monument to Cooper. Accustomed to 
express my conception in the language of form, and address- 
ing the mind and the imagination of the constituency by 
means of substantial art, I feel painfully the impotence of my 
language to express my feeling as well as my meaning. * * * 
I propose for this monument a parallelogram of twenty-four 
by forty-eight feet, inclosing a room of about twenty feet high, 
equally lighted throughout from above. I propose to raise this 
building upon three high steps which will quite surround it. 
At the corners of these steps I propose to erect, on pedestals, 
four figures illustrating four of Cooper's most striking creations 
of character. The external frieze I propose to decorate with 
designs embodying national traits described by the poet, and, 
in the interior, I propose to call upon four of the ablest painters 
of the country to make visible a certain number of his most 
effective descriptions. The colossal bronze portrait of Cooper 
will ornament the extremity of this room opposite the entrance. 
I propose that, in form, this building shall be an example of 
symmetry and effective masonry, and that all its parts shall be 

The Cooper Monument. 185 

specimens of what can be afforded by the country now. I pro- 
pose to exclude from the entire work all ornament, except the 
graceful modification of the necessary elements, and the picto- 
rial and sculptural illustrations I have enumerated. 

I count upon the soul of this building to impress itself on the 
body, and if, as I believe, its purpose is great and noble, let no 
man fear that greatness and nobility will not get utterance 
through the hands of those who rear and illustrate it, even as 
the leaden types arrange themselves now at the command of 
the long buried Shakspeare. 

I propose that a large and thoroughly digested model of the 
entire work be prepared before anything farther be attempted. 

I do not deny that, for the sum of money which this work 
will absorb, a vast pile of Gothic fritter or other European 
clap-trap could be erected, which would fill all the papers of 
the land with hyperbolical eulogium and self-gratulation. 

I do not deny that, when all is effected that I propose to 
attempt, the spectator must bring to the view of the work a 
warm love of the first American Novelist, a keen relish for the 
simple, the fervid, the true, or he will go away as they go, who, 
enticed by the hope of a feast, only get a sermon. 

I believe, notwithstanding, that this work would have several 

desirable results. It could scarce fail to develope and improve 

highly the artists employed on it, who, unless this or other 

similar works be commanded, must continue the expectants of 

private patronage or caprice ; and, as such, too often accept 

tasks calculated rather to belittle than to expand and develope 


186 The Cooper Monument. 

their faculties. In art, swimming is only learned in the 

I believe that, as a type of structure, this work could scarce 
fail to influence, in the most wholesome manner, the structures 
of the country, by showing in practice what a few sound and 
pure maxims will do for any building. 

I feel confident that, as a homage to a man who has been a 
great national benefactor and a literary hero, it would command 
the respect of all beholders. By degrees the public would 
learn to understand its language, and when that has been 
accomplished a great step will have been taken in this branch 
of culture. 

I have stated my views in regard to this monument in a 
general manner ; to go farther into detail it would be necessary 
to have elaborated the design, and to have performed all but 
the material execution thereof: a labor of many months, and 
requiring somewhat of expense in experiment. 

I cannot close without expressing my regret that a building 
has not already been prepared, and does not already preserve 
a public testimonial to other illustrious sons of New York, to 
which this monument of Cooper would have been a noble 
addition. I believe that, since the fire which destroyed the old 
Exchange and annihilated the statue of Hamilton, nothing wor- 
thy of the State or the man remains to record visibly his fame. 
Fulton's statue, or even bust, if it exist, has not been seen by 
me. The fate of the statue of Hamilton, that of Washington's 
statue at Raleigh, the destruction of the library at Washington 

The Cooper Monument. 187 

of the Academy of Fine Arts of Philadelphia, of the antiquities 
of Central America at New York, and the burning of the Pano- 
rama of Athens at Cambridge, are all examples of our habitual 
reliance upon combustible material, against all principles of true 
and wise economy, and warnings not to be slighted in the face 
of the statistics of conflagration, and the new, saddening ele- 
ment of voluntary and malicious incendiarism now beginning 
to be developed in these States. 

I am fully aware that the great calls made upon the means 
of citizens by amusements of an expensive character, by feasts 
and dances that vie with the royal follies of the old world, and 
embellishments, domestic and personal, which, like the triumphs 
of Rome, represent the achievements and the whims of the 
known world, leave but scanty resources available for purposes 
like that I propose ; but I have still thought it best to speak of 
what might be, believing that such an object would be a deco- 
ration of the city, a stimulus to youth, a subject of pleasing study 
and instruction for the leisure of the citizens, and as permanent 
and connected with the national glory, a commencement of that 
fund of artistic wealth by which we measure the minds of 
nations whose conquests are passed, and whose policy has 
suffered the fate of all things here below. 


Fashion has lived too long, and exercised an influence too 
potent for us either to deny or to escape it. I wish to analyse 
it briefly. The fact that it runs counter to functional require- 
ment oft-tirnes ; that it is imperative for its hour, and that it 
loses all claim even to respect or gratitude after that hour is 
* passed, brings it into the same category with certain British 
Sovereigns, who are stamped as the first gentlemen and ladies 
of Christendom, as long as they sit upon the throne, and who 
are found, by subsequent analysis, to require a new definition 
of decency or propriety to bring them within the class of 
reputable men. 

I regard the Fashion as the instinctive effort of the stationary 
to pass itself off for progress : its embellishment exhibits the 
rhythm of organization, without the capacity for action ; so 
the fashion boasts the sensuous phenomena of progress with- 
out any real advance. The one and the other are, I believe, 
opiates, intended to quell and lull the wholesome demands of 
nature, and of the author of nature. I believe both are better 
than nothing ; for a false homage to the good has more of 
hope in it than a conscious and hearty adherence to wrong. 

Fashion. 189 

Wherever the student of modern life turns his eye, he sees, 
among other apparently more substantial and serious obstacles 
to advancement and reform, a phantom-like opponent who, 
though no man may say whence he comes, or who is his sire, 
assumes the purple, and rules with a rod of iron. I mean the 
Fashion. I mean the essential mode ! I do not mean to re- 
flect upon the victims and subjects of this despot. I believe 
we all bow the neck to him, more or less ; nor do I mean to 
assert that he has no right of any sort to our regard, for he 
has might, and might always means something very serious. 
I wish to put him to the test of analysis, and find an intelligible 
definition of him, that I may know at least where and how far 
we may lazily submit, when and how we may rebel with a 
chance of freedom. 

The Fashion is not coeval with the race — he was not a 
younger brother of the sun and stars, a second-born of Heaven. 
The great civilizations of antiquity never saw him, till the 
epoch of their decline. The Iliad and the Greek tragedies 
have no trace of him. Even the modern man, in his hour of 
travail and of woe, wots not of him ; he is a flutterer in the 
sunshine of superfluity. He is protean, elusive, he is here and 
gone ; and when we had believed him dead, is here again in 
the twinkling of an eye ! We had hoped that his change was 
a search after the good, until we felt that he gloried in the no 
logic of his shifting. We had hoped that he was seeking a 
wise folly, and that when the circle of folly was run, he 

190 Fashion. 

would turn to wisdom in despair. But again and again he 
flies to the old folly, and gilds with his sanction the exploded 
silliness of a few years since. 

The Fashion is no respecter of persons. He has apparently 
no preferences of a distinct and reliable nature. He gives no 
premonitory symptoms of his approach. He expires in full 
vigor, and like Tadur, reappears in the form of some other 
impotent, dumb, and voiceless form. 

His essential characteristic is change ; he is a dodger, an 
ever new countersign, a Bramah lock, which, when Mr. Hobbs 
has made his key, instantly becomes a common padlock, and 
so puts him to shame. 

I understand by the Fashion the instinctive effort of preten- 
sion to give by mere change, the sensuous semblance of pro- 
gress. I look upon it as a pis alter of the stationary to pass 
itself off for locomotion. I regard it as a uniform, with which 
thinking humanity cripples its gait, in the vain hope that the 
unthinking may keep up with itself. It is a result of the 
desperate effort to make a distinction out of nothing, and is 
only driven from change to change, because nothing is a fruit 
that grows within the reach of all. 

Still, Fashion denotes a hope of better things. It betrays a 
lurking want not clearly expressed, and it gives stones and 
serpents to stop our craving, only because it has neither bread 
nor fishes to bestow. Fashion is no positive evil, and has been 
often a relative good. As etiquette, though a poor make-shift, 

Fashion. 191 

still confesses the existence of propriety, its superstition, with 
all its darkness, would prove a twilight to the godless ; so 
Fashion may be allowed to protest against finality, and be the 
symbol of yearning yet impotent aspiration. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his very able and scholar-like Dis- 
courses on the Art of Painting, adhered to " sound believing," 
and though in his work-room he was chiefly occupied with 
lords and ladies, at two, three, and five hundred pounds a head, 
yet in his doctrine was he a firm maintainer of the gusto grande, 
and its concomitant short-commons. He thus served the god 
of art and the mammon of society alternately — led Barrys and 
Haydons into the temptation of " entusimusy," and kept his 
royal siege and extensive custom safe alike from rivalry and 

He has recorded the boast that his were no " unfledged 
opinions," he had gained them all from the Italian eagles' moun- 
tain home, after they had left the parent nest. Was he not in 
error here ? Were they not chiefly eggs which he distributed 
at Somerset house ? Were not most of the male eggs addled ? 

The master-pieces that I saw in London last summer, were 
dogs, with an epigraph more or less witty or far-fetched, the 
Houses of Parliament, a sort of parvenu nightmare, caused by 
the middle ages not being yet thoroughly digested by the British 

An Artist's Creed. 193 

stomach, and an unsightly column, with an unsightly statue on 
its summit, which made me feel that one man, at least, had 
failed " to do his duty." 

I doubt if the world can accept these spolia oinma as any 
fair remuneration for so many years of successful sway by sea 
and land. 

I wish to give forth an artist's creed which I have prepared 
for my own child. I have followed Winkelman through the 
labyrinth of his dogma, and it has seemed to me that he hath 
rather imposed his own feeling and taste than struck and laid 
bare the foundations of truth. I have followed Schiller and 
Goethe to the top of their high mountain, and found the air 
thin and cold, and often so foggy that I could see no trace of 
the kingdoms of the world they told me were at my feet. 

I dare not deny the mastery of these men of the ideas they 
handled. I must, however, make shift to get along without 
understanding them at present. I have not the antecedent 
training necessary to follow them, and find my way back to 
practice. I remark, likewise, that the light of their sun hath 
not prevented many princes and peoples from running into pal- 
pable artistical absurdity, and this is my only safe reason for 
doubting them. An isolated spider throws out a web and pulls 
upon it to see if its other end hath caught somewhat ; if it be 
floating in space he withdraws it, and throws out, another much 
longer : if he have no better success than before, he waits a long 
time after withdrawing this second web, and then throwing out 
a thread of incredible fineness and length, he runs upon it, not 

194 An Artist's Creed. 

caring whether it have any hold at the other end, and trusting 
to its hold upon the air, to take him at all events out of that. 
I believe the symmetrical and brilliant theories which are not 
incarnate in practical result, have a certain analogy with this 
third web of the isolated spider; for though it require an ex- 
ceptional brain to demonstrate a new truth, your average man 
can generally adapt it, and work it into the result with heat and 
vigor and even new application* not foreseen by the original 
discerner thereof. 

I sat in the fresh morning within my garden ; the sun was 
rising, and the sea and sky responded to his eternal smile. A 
gentle wind crept over me, and wrapped me in a paradise of new- 
mown hay and wild flowers. The sweetbrier that canopied 
ray head poured forth her breath of praise till the sense ached 
at her. I was still and cheerful. Suddenly my own blue-eyed 
boy stood by me ; he leaned his elbows on my knees, looked 
wistfully up to my face, and, with bewildered smile asked, " Papa, 
what is God ? Since " the boy's the father of the man," I com- 
manded my voice and my smile ; 1 bade him call his mother 

* Some of the ablest Daguerrian operators are, without doubt, the very 
men who would have laughed Daguerre to scorn had they seen him trying 
to fix the image upon his silver retina. You may know the practicians 
by this sign, they are great laughers. They stand in relation to the 
inventors where the fist stands in relation to the brain, and are as 
necessary to it as it to them. 

An Artist's Creed. 195 

that we might speak together of this ; he bounded away. 
My breast was shaken, and I wept. That question, thus asked 
then and there, was too much for me. It was as if the new- 
born litter had lifted their mewling muzzles from the teat, and 
yelped for the day that was burning on their closed lids. 

Ere long I heard his laughing voice ; he was at play ; I went 
to him. " Papa. God is my father which is in heaven !" " Ay, my 
child ! 'hallowed be his name!' "I say it every night — Thy 
kingdom come ! thy will be done !" and, leaning on his Lilli- 
putian rake, he recited the divine petition. Is it right thus to 
make the infant brain a romba of words that come, at last, to be 
associated only with bed-time ? I know not there be honest 
men that were thus tutored. Because of my fear that my 
child may come at last not to taste the quality of the Lord's 
prayer, until he can compare it with the prayers of the hier- 
archies, do I now seek to prepare for him an artist's creed, that 
he may learn somewhat of man made in God's image, and 
thence climb from nature to nature's author and finisher. 

Three things, my child, have I seen in man worthy of thy 
love and thought. Three proofs do I find in man that he was 
made only a little lower than the angels — Beauty — Action — 

By beauty I mean the promise of function. 
By action I mean the presence of function. 
By character I mean the record of function. 

196 An Artist's Creed. 

The glory of beauty is the faith of future action. 

The honor of action is the hope of future character. 

The divinity of character is the charity that giveth itself to 
God, in sacrificing self to humanity. 

These three do I find, and the greatest of these is charity. 
Go thou, my child, into the thoroughfare, test these my words, 
and if they be clever statements of a lie, say to them retro, 
Satane ! But if they be feeble lines of truth, come to me 
once more, and we will pull these threads and seek to know 
where their other end is fastened. 

The April leaf bursts its integument at the call of the coming 
sun. Its stem is feeble, but its pulp is also tender, obedient to 
the breeze, coy of the rain, it shines and thinks not of August, 
still less of November. The eye of man sees here the beauty 
of the leaf, the promise of midsummer function; not that func- 
tion hath not begun — it began ere the sharded husk fell to 
earth. But it is light, easy gentle work. He hangs upon the 
breast of the young year, and answers the flow of her milk 
with the light of his eye, and his heavenly, toothless laugh. 
The eye of man foresees the dog-days and hears afar the hail- 
storm and the thunder. Not for ever will that mother watch — 
she only prepares thee ! 

In July we visit once more the leaf, and we find him a lit- 
tle dusty generally, his stem tougher, he sways where he once 
fluttered, and his gloss is gone ; he takes his dose of sun and 
rain when he can get it, but not with the frolic of May ; his 
outline hath been somewhat shrivelled by the heat, his integrity 

An Artist's Creed. 197 

a little damaged by grub, or moth. In the long drought we 
think we hear him cry, u How long ! Oh Lord, how long ?" He 
is now in full action, and though he seem less buoyant, this is 
his life of life. There is still beauty in him, for there is still a 
promise of function, but there is chiefly action, performance, 
which is more than promise. Character is now developing, 
the record of his function is now seen, he is beginning to get a 
receipt in full from the Maker of all things. 

The eye of man now sees, in the expanded and towering 
trunk, the treasure, that these little busy ones have laid up of 
solid wood. 

In November we seek the leaf once more — it hangs by a 
filament ; beauty is there yet, for yet is there a promise of func- 
tion ; but how small ! The thready fibre that sustains the 
shrivelled lung still promises, the filament still acts, character 
is here ; and at last, with sudden puff of north-wester, comes the 
receipt in full, and the rustling fall is answered with greeting 
rustle by such as fell before. 

The ear of man hears audibly the words " Well done ! good 
and faithful servant." 

The heathen saw in spring one deity, in the summer another, 
in the fall another ; and when the winter came they sorrowed 
as without hope. The eye of man now sees one God, the God 
of spring, of summer, of fall and of winter, and in whom, 
through all these aspects, is there no shadow of turning. 

Thou who dost not grope as I, but seest ; who art not dumb 
as I, who have dabbled in jargons till I have lost my vernacu- 

198 An Artist's Creed. 

lar and gained no tongue, — but speakest; say of man, say of 
nations, say of creeds, say of every juxtaposition of parts for 
an end what I have tried to say of the leaf, what thou feelest 
that I struggle after, even as the drowning man clutches, vain- 
ly ; and if it be not true, there must be more Gods than one. 


The man of genius is pre-eminently the servant of a God whose 
service is perfect freedom. The so called terror — the delirium 
tremens of responsibility belongs, I believe, rather to what is 
called talent, especially when conjoined with a fierce desire to 
parvenir, as the French say, — to succeed. 

Your man of genius goes about looking for responsibility ; 
and when he finds it, he takes it joyfully, often telling you, 
somewhat frankly, that he is the man for it, and forgetting, in 
the fervor of his volition, that modesty which the copy-books 
have conjoined inseparably with merit. He not only promises 
largely, magnificently, but he tells you that his performance is 
not to be despised — Exegi monumentum cere perennius ! Rega- 
lique situ pyramidum altius. That's the way he talks when 
he is communicative and in good humor with himself. 

I believe it is Ovid who shows his conviction of the immor- 
tality of the soul, by loudly defying old " tempus edax rerum" 
to strike one leaf from his laurelled brow. 

Dante says, that he writes from a harmony that is suona dentro 

200 Fragments. 

— inside of him. He accuses no terrible pressure from without, 
except political tyranny and want of bread. Ealtrui 'pane — 
eating the crust of charity — that is his complaint. Shak- 
speare's " eye in a fine frenzy rolling," rolled from the fulness 
of the God within, not from fear of outward lash or black 


I am afraid that some of our critics, with their stern claims 
and terrible law, have swallowed more of the east wind than 
is good for the liver. They may do harm with this reign of 
terror. Boys of genius are sprouting in every direction, by all 
accounts. Why scare them in this way ? 

Look at Robert Burns ! When he brought forward his little 
specimens of the utterance of genius, the dominant intellect of 
Britain said, " It is naught !" So they set him to gauge whis- 
key ; yet, when he had gone his way, " straightway they 
rejoiced," built him a huge monument, and bemoaned him. 
So far from making any stern claim upon this mind, now 
known as the very jewel of Scotland, the dunderheads never 
found out what he was good for until he was gone. Burns 
hankered and cankered — he confessed it — but it was not for 
fear of not getting utterance: it was, he says, "to see their 
cursed pride." They made stern claims of some kind or other, 
and he protested against them. There is little doubt that the 
man saw in the distance the big marble monument that was 
to shelter his image. He would gladly have exchanged some 
tithe of its future outlay and splendor, and have received there- 

Fragments. 201 

for a cottage for bis wife and bread for bis bairns. Wbat ter- 
ror inspired bis song ? If I mistake not, be says, roundly, " I 
rhyme for fun." 

I believe it is now settled, that to interlard one's talk or 
written language with French phrases and scraps of Latin or 
other foreign tongues, is essentially vulgar and affected — still 
I have not tried to break myself of it, partly because I am one 
of those men who do not easily learn new habits, and partly to 
repel— shake off — and trip up the self-made critics, who are my 
especial aversion. When I say self-made, I do not mean such 
men as having perceived that there were " more things in heaven 
than on earth," &c, have seriously set themselves to supply 
the deficiency. I mean the truly self-made man, who is not 
only ignorant, but is cheerfully so, who has kept constantly 
within that narrow circle where the accident of birth placed 
him, and where strong lungs and an iron stomach have made 
him the cock of the walk. I have generally found that this 
sort of man, in making himself, never forgets the important 
item of self-appreciation — nay, it is often the only part of the 
2:od-like task that does not seem to me to have been hurried, 
botched, and made a mess of. . I had hoped to have increased 
these citations in number and value, with assistance of the Con- 
gressional library, but that, alas ! is gone, having been quite 
burned up, in consequence of the economy that filled its halls 

with some forty or fifty cords of painted pine, and that too, in 


202 Fragments. 

a building where the soda-water merchants and applewomen 
have royal vaults, over head and under foot, and where even 
the crypts and outhouses are worthy of Genoa, Venice, or 

Stopping here and there, among men of different races, 
creeds, and forms of civilization, I have become inoculated, to 
some extent, with the various ways of thinking of those about 
me, always retaining nearly the same proportion of original 
Yankee conviction to after-thought, that you will find of matrix 
to pebbles in the pudding-stone of Roxbury, Massachusetts. 

The habit of working in stone has spoiled me for debate. I 
never can discuss with a vigorous and resolute antagonist. 
When I work a bit of clay it will, to a certain extent, stay put, 
as the saying is. Stone also is, after all, a soft material. If I 
strike off a bit with my chisel, it stays off through all time ; 
but when I answer an objection in politics or morals, the rogues 
state it over again in another shape and grow personal — just 
as the wolf, when he tried the lamb at the brook-side assizes, 
kept making new indictments and drawing nearer to him all 
the while. 

This impossibility of getting the better of a disputant is the 
real secret, I take it, of the ultima ratio of fire, sword, and tor- 
ture. Hercules cut off the Hvdra's heads, but he was obliged 
to burn the stumps to prevent their sprouting, and all opinion 

Fragments. 203 

is a Hydra's head. Uniformity of creed is only to be realized 
by mechanical means. If you would have men's faith as relia- 
ble as stone you must petrify them. But when they be of 
stone, other men may throw them at you (see the history of 
the French Revolution). Perhaps it is wiser to agree to differ, 
and to set up our men in society as the shipwrights do their 
masts, with somewhat of space and play, lest they snap and 
come down about our ears if put to too strong a test. Shrouds 
and stays are good, but neither sun- nor rain respects them. 
What is all right and tight to-day will be rickety to morrow ! 

Serpens nisi Seiyentem comedit non Jit Draco. — The brutes 
in their w r ar, as in their truce, obey a divine law. Men also 
obey a divine law in their war with brutes, as in their truce. 
Now the hierarchies and higher- law men declare that another 
God is necessary to explain the battle between man and man. 
To this I would answer, that men do not fight about arithmeti- 
cal questions; they do not fight about that which both under- 
stand. When men fight, therefore, one of the belligerents at 
least is brutal, perhaps both ; in either case there is a brutal 
belligerent. I see no necessity for inventing a new God to pre- 
side over brutal men ; for, though man may manage to be 
thierischer als jedes their, he can scarce surpass them all. 
Let us then paraphrase the Horatian precept and proclaim, — 
" Nee Diabolus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus inciderit" 

204 Fragments. 

English writers, even of a high class, speak complacently of 
the bull-dog courage of their masses. They parade it in terro- 
rem. Now, bull-dogs are terrible to curs and mastiffs, but 
when they see men they see their lord. 

John Bull, in his Quarterly Review, after bellowing trium- 
phantly over the ten carcases of Frenchmen he once " knocked 
over" (Sic) with old fashioned smooth-bore, and saying pithy 
things of the capability of the rifle and bayonet, squeals about 
the cruel invention of a French officer for throwing into his 
ships a flame inevitable and inextinguishable. Doth he 
think it diabolical ? Let him pray ! Perhaps the Frenchman 
thought his bull-dogs diabolical, and has prayed first. 

At Vienna, I heard an Austrian say, boastingly, that in the 
next war with France, the imperial troops would be found to be 
a wall of granite. A Yankee who stood there, said, quietly, 
"The imperial troops, sir, were always such a wall; it will 
never be an impassable barrier to Frenchmen unless you 
garnish it with — men." 

Perhaps the old symbol of the serpent with his tail in his 
mouth, means man seeking self-knowledge after having subju- 
gated sea and land ; if so, perhaps a better type of eternity 
could not have been invented. I thank the prophetic seers of 

Fragments. 205 

Egypt that they made the circle by putting the tail between 
the teeth ; by this arrangement, the brain overlooks the fun 
from two eyes. The circle is sometimes sought by giving the 
tail a double turn round the neck ; thanks to God ! the tail 
loses its power when the brain is isolated by the hug. 

When Jove made the anaconda's head, he saw the eyes 
fixed upon a bullock, and asked, "Dost thou wish a tail?" 
" Yea, papa, a big one." " Dost thou wish a fine pair of legs ?" 
" No, papa, they would only be in my way ; why askest thou ?" 
" Merely to test thy head, my boy. Behold, thou art 
finished!" "Alas, I am small." "3ut unencumbered." "I 
am very huno-rv." " Go ahead !" 

Jove humored the ambition of the hog, and made him a 
monumental elephant. The hypercritical quadruped surveyed 
himself in a pool, and came back shaking his ears in much dis- 
gust. " How now, thou ponderous one ?" " Pater andronte 
theonte ! Did I not ask for dignity, that I might stand a 
monument of thy own greatness and wisdom ? Behold, thou 
hast given me two tails instead of one, and I am a laughing- 
stock !" " My child," said the pitying God, " this is no common 
tail, but a marvellous proboscis ! Why let it hang thus pendu- 
lous and forlorn ? Throw it aloft ! Hold it vertical and rigid ! 
Blow ! Behold, thou hast a spire and belfry all in one !" 

2t>6 Fragments. 

"Truly thou art great, my father; I will sing thy praises ever- 
more." The elephant now repaired to the hill-top, took his 
stand, and tossing his snout into the sky, commenced his hymn 
to Jove. He was the glory and wonder of all hogdom. When 
hunger came, between strophe and antistrophe, he managed to 
trumpet for dinner. "My child," said Jove with laughter, "I 
cannot afford so much one-sided magnificence. Thy nose must 
come down and attend upon thy belly. Behold, thou standest 
in thine own ordure ! Such a monument as thou requires two 
tails; the one to strike the flies from thy flank, the other to 
purvey for thy maw. Thou shalt find it supple as a snake ; 
prehensile as monkey's hand. Fall not, my son, into mono- 
mania. So much grandeur and immobility can only exist by a 
mobile, flexible, sensitive jack-of-all-trades adjunct. Know that 
thy snout is my master-piece. The rest of thee I made to 
please thy foolish self; but for this snout thy dignity would 
soon starve." 

The Egyptian immortality lost in flavor and color what it 
gained in duration. Their architecture was as expressive of 
impotent aspiration as their mummy. They exemplify with 
their conserved carcases and perennial clumsiness, that fear of 
death which, mistrusting God or believing in more than one, is 
all its lifetime subject to bondage. 

The Egyptians sought immortality by passing their lives in 

Fragments. 207 

hewing- stone cases for their carcases, not altogether in vain, 
for after three thousand years, the faithful granite yields us the 
eternal grin. The Greeks put their bodies in the fire ; and 
their lives upon papyrus or marble, where it still breathes and 

There be dilettanti who think that art can utter no more, 
because they have not heard aright one word of all that art 
hath uttered. If any man studying books at night, conclude 
that the day of poetry is past, let him rise before the sun and 
see the day born, and he will feel with joy that God still 

Having lived all my life in lands where people looked over 
their shoulders before asking what's o'clock, for fear that they 
might wake the suspicion of a spy, and having, from time to 
time, read books published here at home, in which it seemed 
to me that speech took a high, wide, and deep range, going 
indeed so far as to call in question the constitution of these 
States, and the creed of a majority of our fellow-citizens, I pro- 
mised myself the satisfaction of blowing off the steam accumu- 
lated by years of malcontent silence, without let or hindrance. 
I felt all the safer in this my proposed talk, because I am a sin- 
cere and hearty adherent to the distinctive political opinions of 
my country; and though I cannot, of course, think on matters 

208 Fragments. 

of faith like everybody, I allow that in all such matters " much 
may be said on both sides." 

The real, hidden, not outspoken meaning of these checks 
upon the freedom of speech, would seem to be a regret that he 
who uses it, hath ever been born, or, being born and developed, 
that he doth not make sufficient haste to die. 

Whoever will compare the remarks made upon Fenimore 
Cooper, during his life and after his demise, both at home and 
abroad, will scarce escape the conclusion that when laid in his 
coffin and screwed down, he was just where many wished to 
have him. Had he followed the prudential advice of some 
well-wishers, his admirers would have been merely less grieved, 
his foes less gratified, when he at length put on that extreme 
quietness of manner which the English preach, and whose 
glory is that from it there is nothing to hope or to fear. To 
assume this quietness in life, would for him have been suicide 
— for "quiet to quick bosoms is a hell." 

I understand by this continual order to keep one's feet close 
together, one's elbows close to the side, and one's voice below 
the breath, simply a denial of the right to live. Surely, there is 
yet room enough on this continent for an individual to walk 
and talk, and even to shout and run, without breaking any 
one's rest or endangering public rights. 

The main advantage of intercourse and society has always 
appeared to me to consist herein, that by uttering one's thought, 
feeling, whim if you will, one could show his hand, and obtain 
perhaps sympathy, perhaps instruction, or peradventure the 

Fragments. 209 

knowledge that neither was to be hoped for. In Europe we talk 
much about the opera, the fashion, the weather, and the deli- 
cacies of the season. We talk of topics which unite as many as 
possible of a mixed company, and which expose no one to the 
attention of the police. In such societies, to broach political sub- 
jects, to speak of creeds, or to mention Washington, would be 
a breach of manners ; because these are not safe topics. Some 
of the best bred and most refined circles in Europe use all this 
caution. Let no one fancy, however, that he can win his entree 
into such company by tattle about music, and gastronomy. 
He gets no entrance there without having been tested and 
stamped elsewhere. 

I regard it as no more than common honesty in an individual 
who enters any society, that he speak his thought and feeling, 
lest he be called to join a procession to glorify a cause he 
despises, or to eat abolition bread and salt, with a secret south- 
ern leaning. 

The great charm of a hospitable entertainment and friendly 
greeting lies herein, that they be extended to ourselves, by 
which I mean, because of our special ism, or in spite of it. If 
I keep back my opinion, and get invited to dine thereby, is it 
not a trick that I play upon Abraham ? Besides, how can I 
be sure that the warmth and friction of talk will not rouse the 
voice of Jacob, and so give the lie to the hide of Esau ? Now, the 
meanest attitude conceivable by me, is that of one who stands 
convicted of the desire to cheat, and of the impotence to deceive. 


210 F It A G M £ In T S . 

I write my opinions more willingly than I speak tliem ; 
because, being many of them not strictly demonstrable, they 
tend to rouse the individual feeling of him who uttereth them. 
Mathematical and physical truths are proven, explained, and 
developed by a tide of talk which, like a placid sea, rolls its 
deep waters gently but irresistibly shorewards. Moral, political, 
and economical truths are defended by language which, like 
the roller of the beach, meeting resistance from below, gets up 
with sudden vivacity, and combs and breaks with foam and 
roar. A man is never so well prepared to do justice to Euclid 
as in the morning, and with empty stomach; he talks politics 
and religion with vigor, when the ladies are withdrawn and 
the cloth is removed. 

It is often necessary to try one's opinions on several hearers, 
in order to see what sort of interests and aspirations are 
offended by them. I should be ashamed to utter twice what 
were once condemned by good men and true of opposite poli- 
tics and different creeds ; but a one-sided condemnation hath 
no terrors for me. 

There is a form of speech which aspires, by breadth of sym- 
pathy, to live peaceably with all men. In certain states of 
society, this temper is ornamental and useful ; but if perse- 
vered in through thick and thin, it is apt to incur the charge 
of a fondness for the " mess," and an aversion for the " watch." 

I have always heard Thorwaldsen, Eastlake, Gerard, De la 

Frag m Ens. 211 

Roche, Gibson, Rauch, Teneranni, Bienaime, speak with a cer- 
tain reserve and caution of a new work by an able hand. 
They seem to have an instinctive sense that new works, though 
they be works of a Dante or a Shakspeare, do not always find 
their level with the " ignorant present ;" they get it often when, 
as Lord Bacon says, "some time be passed away." Even when 
sure that a " miss" has been made, they beget a softness that 
doth give a smoothness to their sorrow. "When Dante speaks 
of Homer as the poet, " che sovra ogni altro come aquila vola" 
one would suppose that he had no room for other idols, yet in 
the presence of Virgil's moonlight beauty doth he kneel out- 
right, call him his " master," and say that from his golden 
page came the fair style that shed honor on his own Tuscan 
town. Lo ! he hath found another eagle ! This is not exactly 
Shylock justice, or New England logic perhaps, but it is true 
to the heart of man nevertheless. 

Fra Beato Angelico was unknown and unappreciated by 
whole schools of able modem painters. Read all that Eng- 
lishmen have written on art, up to Flaxman's time, and you 
will find no trace of his deathless fame. Read all that French 
criticism has uttered (and French criticism is not to be 
despised), and you will see that Fra Beato's paradise is to them 
a terra incognita. Read the shallow babble about the hard- 
ness of Perugino in the old English works. It is wrong to be 
so fast in our verdicts. 

212 Fragments. 

Genius would seem to make immense efforts almost uncon- 
sciously, and to keep a large reserve out of the figlit altogether. 
Shakspeare went into the country and remained still. He has 
told us that he knew his name would have a life where life is 
most active, " even in the mouths of men." Lord Bacon, too, 
pointed out his future station in the world's opinion, adding, 
mournfully, that it must be withheld " until some time be 
passed away." This disposition on the part of mediocrity to 
harry, and scourge, and flout men of creative power, looks more 
like the result, of a terrible law than anything else in the annals 
of genius. Still, it is too general not to be an ordinance of 
God. Like loves like, and it requires the collective heart of 
man to make a quorum to judge the broad, the deep, the 
genial soul. The man of vast power of mind is like the for- 
tress full of armed hosts, with spears glittering over the turret, 
with pointed artillery and burning match. We sit down to 
sketch it and glorify it more cordially, when the portcullis 
chain is broken, the guns are spiked, and the ivy and the owl 
have possession of its towers. 





Greenough's great work has surpassed my expectations, high 
as they were. It is truly sublime. The statue is of colossal 
grandeur ; about twice the size of life. The hero is represented 
in a sitting posture. A loose drapery covers the lower part of 
the figure, and is carried up over the right arm, which is 
extended, with the elbow bent, and the forefinger of the hand 
pointed upwards. The left arm is stretched out a little above 
the thigh ; and the hand holds a Roman sword reversed. The 
design of the artist was, of course, to indicate the ascendency 
of the civic and humane over the military virtues, which dis- 
tinguished the whole career of Washington, and which form 
the great glory of his character. It was not intended to bring 
before the eye the precise circumstance under which he resigned 
his commission as commander-in-chief. This would have 
required a standing posture and a modern military costume ; 
and, without an accompanying group of members of Congress, 
would have been an incomplete work. The sword reversed. 

216 Statue of Washington. 

and the finger pointed upwards, indicate the moral sentiment, 
of which the resignation of his commission, as commander-in- 
chief, was the strongest evidence, without the details, which 
were inconsistent with the general plan. The face is that of 
Stuart's portraits modified so as to exhibit the highest point of 
manly vigor and maturity. Though not corresponding exactlv 
with any of the existing portraits, it is one of the aspects which 
the countenance of Washington must necessarily have worn in 
the course of his progress through life, and is obviously the 
proper one for-.^he purpose. In expression, the countenance is 
admirably adjusted to the character of the subject and the 
intention of the work. It is stamped with dignity, and radiant 
with benevolence and moral beauty. The execution is finished 
to the extreme point of perfection, as well in the accessories as 
in the statue itself. The seat is a massy arm-chair, of antique 
form and large dimensions, the sides of which are covered with 
exquisitely wrought bas-reliefs. The subject of one is the infant 
Hercules strangling the serpent in his cradle; that of the 
other, Apollo guiding the four steeds that draw the chariot of 
the sun. The back of the chair is of open work. At the left 
corner is placed a small statue of Columbus, holding in his 
hand a sphere, which he is examining with fixed attention : at 
the right corner is a similar small statue of an Indian chief. 
The effect of these comparatively diminutive images is to 
heighten by contrast the impression of grandeur, which is made 
by the principal figure. The work stands upon a square block 
of granite, which bears upon its front and two sides, as an 

Statue of Washington. 217 

inscription, the well known language of tlic resolution, adopted 
in Congress upon the receipt of the intelligence of Washing- 
ton's death : " First in war : first in peace : first in the hearts 
of his countrymen." On the back of the statue, just above the 
top of the chair, is placed another inscription in Latin, which is 

as follows : 

Simulacrum istud 

Ad magnum Libertatis exemplum 

]N"ec sine ipsa duratnrmn 

Horatius Greonongh 


This inscription is not very felicitous. Independently of the 
objections that have been made to the grammar of the faeiebat, 
which, though defended on classical authority, does not strike 
me as the natural form, the ideas are hardly expressed with 
sufficient distinctness, and, so for as they can be gathered, are 
not particularly appropriate. It is not easy to see in what pre- 
cise or correct understanding of the terms Washington can be 
called an " example of liberty ;" and admitting that, by a rather 
latitudinous construction, this phrase may be supposed to mean 
that his conduct is a proper example for the imitation of the 
friends of liberty, it is still more difficult to imagine why a 
statue of Washington may not be preserved though liberty 
should perish. Two thousand years have elapsed since the fall 
of Grecian and Roman libertv, but Demosthenes and Cicero 
still survive in their "all but living busts," as well as in their 
" thoughts that breathe and words that burn." The precise 

218 Statue of Washington. 

object of this description would, perhaps, have been sufficiently 
provided for by a simple indication of the name of the sculptor 
and of the circumstances under which the work was ordered 
and executed. The statue was originally placed in the Rotunda 
of the Capitol ; but the light being found unfavorable, it was 
removed to a temporary building in the garden, where it now 
stands. The light is better than before, but the meanness of 
the building forms an unpleasant contrast with the grandeur of 
the work, and it is much to be desired that a more suitable 
place of deposit may soon be found for a monument so worthy 
of the great subject, and so honorable to the artist and the 

This magnificent product of genius does not seem to be 
appreciated at its full value in this metropolis of " the freest 
and most enlightened people on the globe." I have met with 
few persons here who have spoken of it in terms of strong or 
even moderate satisfaction. Every one has some fault to point 
out, that appears to withdraw his attention entirely from the 
grandeur and beauty of the whole, which, when they are 
pressed upon him, he is compelled to acknowledge. One is 
dissatisfied that the figure is colossal ; another that the face is 
not an exact copy of Stuart's portrait ; a third, that the posture 
is sitting and not standing; a fourth, that there is a want of 
repose in the general expression ; a fifth, that one of the ankles 
is incorrectly modelled ; and so of the rest. Most of these 
objections proceed, as I have heard them stated, from persons 
who would think themselves wronged if their sensibility to the 

Statue of Washington. 219 

grand and beautiful in nature and art were called in question. 
But how feeble must this quality be in one who can see nothing 
in so splendid a monument but some trilling real or imaginary 
fault! I should not blame any one for indicating and insisting 
on what he might consider as blemishes, if he were also to 
exhibit a proper feeling for the acknowledged merits of the 
work : but I almost lose patience when I hear a person, not 
without some pretensions to good taste, after a visit of an hour 
to the statue, making no other remark than that one of the 
ankles is incorrectly modelled ; an error which, after a careful 
examination for the express purpose, I have been wholly unable 
to discover. This remark is nearly a repetition of the one made 
by the Athenian cobbler, upon the first exhibition of one of the 
celebrated Venuses of antiquity — that there was a wrong stitch 
in one of her sandals. It affords a curious, though not very 
agreeable proof, how exactly human nature repeats itself under 
similar circumstances, even to the slightest and apparently most 
accidental particulars. 

The most satisfactory expression of feeling that I have met 
with here, in regard to the statue, was prompted by the finer 
and truer sensibility inherent in the heart of woman. It pro- 
ceeded from a company of ladies whom I happened to encoun- 
ter on my first visit to the building that contains this great 
national monument. They were strangers to me, and had not 
the air of persons belonging to the fashionable coteries of our 
large cities ; but they evidently possessed — what is much more 
important — cultivated minds, and a keen susceptibility to the 

220 Statue of Washington. 

influence of natural and moral beauty. They appeared to have 
been travelling extensively, and one of them had under her 
arm a large sketch-book. They expressed in various forms the 
highest admiration of the statue, and one of them finally 
remarked, as a sort of summary of the whole, that it produced 
upon her mind a stronger impression of sublimity and grandeur 
than she had received from the cataract of Niagara. 

The objections above mentioned to the size, attitude, and 
costume of the statue, and to the character of the features, pro- 
ceed upon the supposition, that it was the interest of the artist 
to make the nearest possible approach to the person and coun- 
tenance of Washington, as represented in the most authentic 
portraits and statues ; and in costume, to the dress that he actu- 
ally wore. This supposition is obviously an erroneous one. 
These are matters which have their importance as points of 
historical information — especially in connexion with a character 
of so much interest. But the object of the artist, in a work of 
this kind, is much older than that of satisfying curiosity upon 
these particulars. It was, as it should have been, his purpose 
to call forth, in the highest possible degree, the sentiment of 
the moral sublime, which the contemplation of the character of 
Washington is fitted to excite. This purpose required such a 
representation of his person, for instance, as, consistently with 
truth to nature, would tend most strongly to produce this 
result. A servile adherence to the existing portraits is not 
essential to the accomplishment of such a purpose, and might 
even be directly opposed to it ; as, for example, if these had 

Statue of Washington. 221 

been executed in the early youth or extreme old age of the 
subject. Still less would it be necessary to preserve the cos- 
tume of the period, which is already out of fashion, and for 
every subject, except the satisfaction of antiquarian curiosity, 
entirely unsuitable for effect in sculpture. The colossal size — 
the antique costume — the more youthful air of the face — are 
circumstances which, without materially impairing the truth to 
nature, increase very much the moral impression, and, instead 
of furnishing grounds for objection, are positive merits of high 

The question betwen a sitting and a standing posture is sub- 
stantially the same as whether the subject was to be presented 
under a civil or a military aspect. In the latter case, a stand- 
ing posture would undoubtedly have been preferable. But if the 
ascendency, given by Washington through his whole career to 
the virtues of the patriot citizen over the talents of the military 
chieftain, was the noblest trait in his character, "and if it was the 
duty of the artist to exhibit him, on this occasion, under the 
circumstances in which he appeared, in real life, to the greatest 
advantage, then the civil aspect of the subject, and with it the 
sitting posture, like the other particulars that have been men- 
tioned, instead of being a ground of objection, is a high posi- 
tive merit. 

It has been mentioned in private, as an objection made by a 
person whose judgment in some respects would be considered 
as entitled to respect, that there is a want of repose in the atti- 
tude. The arms are extended in a way in which they could 

222 Statue of Washington. 

not be placed for any length of time without producing fatigue ; 
and we feel, it is said, the same sort of uneasiness on witnessing 
this attitude in a statue that we should if it were maintained 
permanently by a living person in our presence. 

It is rather difficult to comprehend the precise meaning of 
this objection as applied to the statue of Washington. When 
it is the intention of the artist to express repose, the indications 
of activity, of any kind, are, of course, out of place. Where it 
is intended to express activity, the indications of repose would, 
for the same reason, be incongruous with the subject. It is no 
more an objection to the statue of Washington that the arms 
are placed in an attitude which, after a short time, would 
become fatiguing to a living person, than it is an objection to 
the antique group of Laocoon that the muscles of a living man 
could not remain more than a few minutes in the state of 
extreme tension, indicated in that celebrated work, without 
convulsions, or to the Apollo Belvidere, that he stands, with foot 
drawn back and arm extended, in the position of an archer 
who has just discharged an arrow from his bow. In the 
famous equestrian statue of Peter the Great, at St. Petersburg, 
the horse is rearing on his hinder legs, while the fore legs 
remain suspended in the air at some distance from the ground. 
This is an attitude which could not be maintained by a living 
horse for more than two or three seconds ; but, far from being 
made a ground of objection to the work, it has been regarded 
as its greatest merit, and as the precise quality which has given 
it the character of being the finest equestrian statue in Europe. 

Statue of Washington. 223 

It was not the design of the artist to represent his subject in 
a state of repose. On the contrary, the obvious intention is to 
exhibit the noblest trait in his intellectual and moral character. 
I mean his habitual control over all the irregular propensities 
of his nature, at the point of time when it reached its fullest 
active development. In his practical career, this point was 
indicated by the resignation of his commission, as commander- 
in-chief, into the hands of the President of Congress. But that 
was a scene which comes within the province of painting rather 
than sculpture. A group so vast is beyond the reach of the 
chisel. It was the difficult duty of the artist to embody the 
sentiment which governed the conduct of Washington on that 
occasion, in a single figure. His success in conquering this 
difficulty, and producing, by a single figure, a moral emotion, 
superior, probably, to any that could be called forth by the 
finest painting of the scene before Congress, is one of the 
noblest triumphs of his noble art. To say that the work 
indicates activity and not repose, is only saying, in other words, 
that it was executed in conformity to the leading point in a 
plan, which was suggested, or rather imperiously dictated, by 
the nature of the subject. 

It is rather unpleasant to be compelled, in commenting on 
this splendid effort of genius, to meet such objections as these, 
instead of joining in the general expression of mingled admira- 
tion and delight which it ought to elicit from the whole public. 
I make no pretensions to connoisseurship in the art of sculp- 
ture, and judge of the merit of the work merely by the impres- 

224 Statue of Washington. 

sion which it makes upon my own mind; but I can say for 
myself, that after seeing the most celebrated specimens o 
ancient and modern sculpture to be found in Europe, including 
the Laocoon and the Apollo Belvidere, with the finest produc- 
tions of Canova, Thorwaldsen, Sergell, and Chantry, 1 consider 
the Washington of Greenough as superior to any of them, and 
as the master-piece of the art. The hint seems to have been 
taken from the Olympian Jupiter of Phidias, who said himself 
that he had caught the inspiration under which he conceived 
the plan of that great glory of ancient sculpture, from a passage 
in the Iliad. In this way the noble work of Greenough con- 
nects itself, by the legitimate filiation of kindred genius, trans- 
mitting its magnetic impulses through the long lines of inter- 
vening centuries, with the poetry of Homer. The vast dimen- 
sions of the Jupiter of Phidias may have made it to the eye a 
more imposing and majestic monument; but if the voluntary 
submission of transcendent power to the moral law of duty be, 
as it certainly is, a more sublime spectacle than any positive 
exercise of the same power over inferior natures, then the sub- 
ject of the American sculptor is more truly divine than that of 
his illustrious prototype in Greece. When Jupiter shakes 
Olympus with his nod, the imagination is affected by a grand 
display of energy, but the heart remains untouched. When 
Washington, with an empire in his grasp, resigns his sword to 
the President of Congress, admiration of his great intellectual 
power is mingled with the deepest emotions of delightful sym- 
pathy, and we involuntarily exclaim with one of the characters 

Statue of Washington. 225 

in a scene of much less importance, as depicted by an elegant 
female writer : " There spoke the true thing ; now my own 
heart is satisfied." 

The present location of the statue is, of course, merely provi- 
sional. It is much to be regretted that the light in the 
Rotunda was found to be unfavorable, as there is no other hall 
in any of the buildings belonging to the Union sufficiently lofty 
and extensive to become a suitable, permanent place of deposit 
for this monument. How, when, and where, such a one shall 
be provided is a problem of rather difficult solution. If, as has 
sometimes been suggested, the patrimonial estate of Washing- 
ton, at Mount Vernon, should ever be purchased by the coun- 
try, and a public building erected there to serve as a sort of 
National Mausoleum, or Western Westminster Abbey, the 
statue would become, of course, its principal ornament. But 
the execution of this plan, should it ever be realized, is proba- 
bly reserved for the good taste and liberality of some future 
generation. In the meanwhile, the noblest achievement of the 
art of sculpture, dedicated to the memory of the greatest man 
that ever lived in the tide of time, will be permitted by a coun- 
try which received from his hands gifts no less precious than 
Independence and Liberty, to take up its abode in a paltry 



[fkom "scenes and thoughts in ecropk."] 

Among the studios of living Artists, the most attractive natu- 
rally to an American, are those of his fellow countrymen. Nor 
do they need national partiality to make them attractive. The 
first American who gained a reputation in the severest of 
the Fine Arts was Greexough. For some years he was the 
only sculptor we had, and worthily did he lead the van in a 
field where triumphs awaited us. I happened, five or six 
years ago, to travel from Boston southward with him and 
Powers, and heard Greenough then warmly second Powers' 
inclination, and urge him to hasten to Italy. Powers was 
soon followed by Clevenger, who, in turn, received from him 
encourao-injy words. The three are now workinc; here harmo- 
niously together. 

Artists of merit have seldom much to show at their rooms ; 
for their works are either made to order, and sent to their des- 
tinations as fast as finished, or thev are sold almost as soon 
as seen. Sculptors have an advantage over painters, inas- 
much as they retain the plaster casts after which each work is 
chiselled in marble. As Greenough does not always finish 

A Visit to Greenough's Studio. 227 

the clay model up to the full design in his mind, hut leaves the 
final touches to the chisel itself, he is not forward to exhibit 
his casts taken from the clay, the prototypes of the forms that 
have been distributed to different quarters of the world. He 
has just now in his studio, recently finished in marble for a 
Hungarian nobleman, an exquisite figure of a child, seated on 
a bank gazing at a butterfly, that has just lighted on the back 
of its upraised hand. In the conception there is that union of 
simplicity and significance, so requisite to make a work of 
plastic Art, especially of sculpture, effective, and which denotes 
the genial Artist. The attitude of the figure has the pliable 
grace of unconscious childhood; the limbs are nicely wrought; 
and the intelligence, curiosity, delight, implied and expressed, 
in its gaze at the beautiful little winged wonder before it, 
impart vividly to the work the moral element ; wanting the 
which, a production, otherwise commendable, is not lifted up 
to one of the high platforms of Art. The mind of the specta- 
tor is drawn into that of the beautiful child, whose inmost 
faculties are visibly budding in the effort to take in the phe- 
nomenon before it. The perfect bodily stillness of the little 
flexible figure, under the control of its mental intentness, is 
denoted by the coming forth of a lizard from the side of the 
bank. This is one of those delicate touches whereby the artist 
knows how to beautify and heighten the chief effect. 

Another work of high character, which Greenough is just 
about to finish in marble, is a head of Lucifer, of colossal 
size. The countenance has the beauty of an archangel, with the 

228 A Visit to Greenough's Studio. 

hard, uncertain look of an archangel fallen. Here is a noble 
mould not filled up with the expression commensurate to it. 
There is no exaggeration to impress the beholder at once with 
the malevolence of the original which the sculptor had in his 
imagination. The sinister nature lies concealed, as it were, in 
the features, and comes out gradually, after they have been 
some time contemplated. The beauty of the countenance is 
not yet blasted by the deformity of the mind. 

Greenough's Washington had left Italy before my arrival in 
Florence. By those best qualified to judge, it was here 
esteemed a fine work. Let me say a few words about the 
nudity of this statue, for which it has been much censured in 

Washington exemplifies the might of principle. He was a 
great man without ambition, and the absence of ambition was 
a chief source of his greatness. The grandeur of his character 
is infinitely amplified by its abstract quality ; that is, by its 
cleanness from all personality. Patriotism, resting on inte- 
grity of soul and broad massive intellect, is in him uniquely 
embodied. The purity and elevation of his nature were the 
basis of his success. Had his rare military and civil genius 
been united to the selfishness of a Cromwell, they would have 
lost much of their effectiveness upon a generation warring for 
the rights of man. Not these, but the unexampled union of 
these with uprightness, with stainless disinterestedness, made 
him Washington. If the Artist clothes him with the toga of 
civil authority, he represents the great statesman ; if with uni- 

A Visit to Greenough's Studio. 229 

form and spurs, the great General. Representing him in 
either of these characters, he gives preference to the one over 
the other, and his image of Washington is incomplete, for he 
was both. But he was more than either or both ; he was a 
truly great man, in whom statesmanship and generalship were 
subordinate to supreme nobleness of mind and moral power. 
The majesty of his nature, the immortality of his name, as of 
one combining the morally sublime with commanding practical 
genius, demand the purest form of artistic representation, — the 
nude. To invest the colossal marble image of so towering, so 
everlasting a man, with the insignia of temporary office, is to 
fail in presenting a complete image of him. Washington, to 
be best seen, ought to be beheld, not as he came from the 
hand of the tailor, but as he came from the hand of God. 
Thus, the image of him will be at once real and ideal. 

That Greenough's fellow-countrymen, by whose order this 
statue was made, would have preferred it draped, ought to be 
of no weight, even if such a wish had accompanied the order. 
To the true Artist, the laws of Art are supreme against all 
wishes or commands. He is the servant of Art only. If, 
bending to the uninformed will of his employers, he executes 
commissions in a way that is counter to the requirements of 
Art, he sinks from the Artist into the artisan. Nor can he, by 
stooping to uncultivated tastes, popularize Art ; he deadens it, 
and so makes it ineffective. But by presenting it to the gene- 
ral gaze in its severe simplicity, and thus, through grandeur 
and beauty of form, lifting the beholder up into the ideal 

230 A Visit to Greenough's Studio. 

region of Art. — by this means he can popularize it. He gra- 
dually awakens and creates a love for it, and thus he gains a 
wide substantial support to Art in the sympathy for it engen- 
dered, the which is the only true furtherance from without that 
the Artist can receive. 

A statue, which is a genuine work of Art, cannot be appre- 
ciated, — nay, cannot be seen without thought. The imagina- 
tion must be active in the beholder, must work with the per- 
ception. Otherwise, what he looks at, is to him only a super- 
ficial piece of handicraft. The form before him should breed 
in him conjecture of its inward nature and capacity, and by its 
beauty or stamp of intellect and soul, lead him up into the 
domain of human possibilities. The majestic head and figure 
of Washington will reveal and confirm the greatness of his 
character, for the body is the physiognomy of the mind. That 
broad mould of limbs, that stern calmness, that dignity of brow, 
will carry the mind beyond the scenes of the revolution, and 
swell the heart with thoughts and hopes of the nobleness and 
destiny of man. Let the beholder contemplate this great 
statue calmly and thoughtfully ; let him, by dint of contem- 
plation, raise himself up to the point of view of the artist, and 
it will have on him something of this high effect. He will 
forget that Washington ever wore a coat, and will turn away 
from this noble colossal form in a mood that will be whole- 
some to his mental state. 

This attempt to justify Greenough's work by no means 
implies a condemnation of other conceptions for a statue of 

A Visit to Greenougii's Studio. 231 

Washington. A colossal figure, — but partially draped, — 
seated, the posture of repose and authority, — Greenough's con- 
ception, seems to me the most elevated and appropriate. 
Artists have still scope for a figure, entirely draped in military 
or civil costume, on horseback or standing. Only this repre- 
sentation of Washington will not be so high and complete as 
the other. 


On the reception in Home of the intelligence of the death of 
Horatio Greenough, Esq., a meeting of the American artists 
and of his personal friends, was held on Saturday, January 
15th, 1853, at the residence of our eminent sculptor, Thomas 

The American artists, without exception, were present, and 
the distinguished English sculptor, John Gibson, R. A., also 
attended, as well as many other friends of the deceased. 

The meeting was called to order by the Hon. Lewis Cass, Jr., 
Charge d' Affaires of the United States, at Rome, — who, after 
stating its object, made a few just and appropriate remarks on 
the eminent qualities of Mr. Greenough. Mr. Crawford having 
been elected President, Mr. Chapman Vice-President, and Mr. 
Freeman, Secretary ; 

On taking the Chair, Mr. Crawford addressed the meeting as 
follows : — 

Gentlemen : I shall not detain you longer upon this melan- 
choly occasion, than is requisite to place before you the 
object of our meeting, and to pass a few resolutions in connex- 
ion with it. You are all, I presume, aware of the recent in- 

Meeting of Artists at Rome. 233 

telligence we have received in Rome, of the death of our emi- 
nent sculptor, Horatio Greenough, the announcement of which 
has been so unexpected, and so mournful, that I, who knew him 
well, have become, if I may use the words, quite overpowered. 

Never in the course of my life have I been influenced by a 
greater desire to express in language appropriate to this solemn 
event, my own feelings. My inability to do this at present, 
gives me much pain. Therefore, I shall only say that by the 
death of our brother artist, we have lost not only a man in whom 
all the virtues which make life a glorious preparation for the 
future, were so truly evident ; but we have also lost a friend whose 
devotion to his profession united with respect and affection for 
the artists of all countries, were combined in a manner so strik- 
ing as to call forth, upon many occasions, our applause and our 
enduring admiration. 

Gentlemen, Horatio Greenough arrived in Rome twenty-seven 
years ago, at a time when, with us at home, sculpture may be said 
to have been truly in its infancy. He came here prompted by 
a most enthusiastic desire to become an artist. He brought 
with him rare learning, ardent ambition, and a determination 
to succeed in a profession the difficulties of which are almost 
insurmountable. We can all of us appreciate his attachment 
to our noble art, because we know how many sacrifices are re- 
quired, how many home-ties are broken, and how much neglect 
often falls to the lot of those who are determined to accomplish 
a course of study, so far removed from home. More I need 


234 Meeting of Artists at Rome. 

not say regarding this. Your sympathies do not require to be 
roused by referring to the incidents of artist-life. Those inci- 
dents most frequently come and go, leaving behind them more 
, shadow than sunshine. It is sufficient to say that a truer, a 
more noble, or a more affectionate heart never existed, than 
the one now so silent, in the grave of Horatio Greenough. It 
is a sad duty for us to be here this night, and know, Gentle- 
men, that the honor he attained not only belongs to the 
history of our country, but also to us ; and we can fully 
appreciate the importance of the heritage, and are determined to 
cherish it. 

It is for this purpose you have been called together. The 
willingness you have shown to be present proves that your 
respect for the deceased is of the most earnest character. 
Therefore, in conclusion, allow me to express a hope that by 
the resolutions we shall pass this evening, we may perhaps 
cause one ray of light to fall, with its mild and cheering influ- 
ence, upon the mournful affliction of the widow and children of 
our lamented brother artist, who in the vigor of life, with a 
long vista of years, and works, and honors before him, has 
been called suddenly away to that far off land, where the 
aspirations of his soul will find, in the presence of its God, the 
full and beatific realization of its devotion while on earth to the 
purity of goodness and the beauty of art. 

Mr. Wm. W. Story then addressed the meeting, eloquently 
alluding to the rank Mr. Greenough held among living artists, 

Meeting of Artists at Rome. 235 

and to his noble qualities as a man. Mr Story then proposed the 
following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted : 

Resolved, That we have heard with deep regret of the death 
of our fellow countryman and brother artist, Horatio Greenough, 

Resolved, That by his early and ardent devotion to sculpture, 
at a period when this department of art was scarcely known or 
practised in our country, he is fairly entitled to be considered 
as the Pioneer of American Sculpture. By careful culture, he 
trained and developed original powers of a high order, and 
attained a public fame of which we, in common with all 
Americans, are justly proud. His works are marked by purity 
of conception, correctness of taste, graceful design, and rare 
delicacy of sentiment. He brought to his profession the 
accomplishments of scholarship, and he pursued it with liberal- 
ity of spirit and elevation of purpose ; he lived and shone not 
merely for success, but to elevate Art, and no personal spirit of 
rivalry or jealousy dwarfed the loftiness of his aim. He was 
eminently a gentleman in whom refinement of feeling ever 
prompted courtesy of manner. He also won the friendship and 
regard of all who knew him. We feel, therefore, that in him 
we have lost not only an able and educated artist, but an honor- 
able and high-minded man. 

Resolved, That in manifestation of our regard for the memory 
of the deceased, we will wear crape on the left arm for the 
space of thirty days. 

Resolved, That we sincerely sympathize with the wife and 

236 Meeting of Artists at Rome. 

family of the deceased, in the bereavement which they have 
sustained ; and that a copy of these resolutions be forwarded to 
them, as a tribute of our unfeigned respect for his genius, 
character, and works. 

The meeting then adjourned. 




I stood alone ; nor word nor other sound, 
Broke the mute solitude that closed me round ; 
As when the air doth take her midnight sleep, 
Leaving the wintry stars her watch to keep, 
So slept she now at noon. But not alone 
My spirit then : a light within me shone 

That was not mine ; and feelings undefined, 
And thoughts flowed in upon me not my own. 
'Twas that deep mystery — for aye unknown — 

The living presence of another's mind. 

Another mind was there — the gift of few — 
That by its own strong will can all that's true 
In its own nature unto others give, 
And mingling life with life, seem there to live. 
I felt it now in mine ; and oh ! how fair, 
How beautiful the thoughts that met me there- 
Visions of Love, and Purity, and Truth ! 
Though form distinct had each, they seemed, as 'twere, 
Embodied all of one celestial air- 
To beam for ever in coequal youth. 

238 The Group of the 

And thus I learned — as in the mind they moved — 
These stranger Thoughts the one the other loved ; 
That Purity loved Truth, because 'twas true, 
And Truth, because 'twas pure, the first did woo ; 
While Love, as pure and true, did love the twain ; 
Then Love was loved of them, for that sweet chain 

That bound them all. Thus sure, as passionless, 
Their love did grow, till one harmonious strain 
Of melting sounds they seemed ; then, changed again, 

One angel form they took — Self-Happiness. 

This angel form the gifted Artist saw, 
That held me in his spell. 'Twas his to draw 
The veil of sense, and see the immortal race, 
The Forms spiritual, that know not place. 
He saw it in the quarry, deep in earth, 
And stayed it by his will, and gave it birth 

E'en to the world of sense ; bidding its cell, 
The cold, hard marble, thus in plastic girth 
The shape ethereal fix, and body forth 

A being of the skies — with man to dwell. 

And then another form beside it stood ; 

'Twas one of this our earth — though the warm blood 

Had from it passed exhaled as in a breath, 

Drawn from its lips by the cold kiss of Death. 

Its little " dream of human life " had fled ; 

And yet it seemed not numbered with the dead, 

But one emerging to a life so bright 
That, as the wondrous nature o'er it spread, 
Its very consciousness did seem to shed 

Rays from within, and clothe it all in light. 

Angel and Child. 239 

Now touched the Angel Form its little hand, 

Turning upon it with a look so bland, 

And yet so full of majesty, as less 

Than holy nature never may impress — 

And more than proudest guilt unmoved may brook. 

The Creature of the Earth now felt that look, 

And stood in blissful awe — as one above 
Who saw his name in the Eternal Book, 
And Him that opened it ; e'en Him that took 

The Little Child, and blessed it in his love. 


My little ones, welcome ! in memory's dream 

I've fondly beheld you full long,] 
Your bright snowy forms as dear messengers seem, 

From the radiant land of song. 

How could you depart from that balmy clime, 

Where your glorious kindred are 1 
The sculptured children of olden time, 

Your elder brothers are there ! 

Sweet Babe ! wouldst thou speak of that gem of earth, 

With your gaze of wondering fear ? 
And you, fair cherub, of him who gave birth 

To your smile of holy cheer ? 

Oh, we feel how eloquent silence may be, 
When before us — all breathing of love — 

Is the embodied spirit of infancy, 
And its angel guide above ! 



Whence come ye, Cherubs 1 from the moon 1 

Or from a shining star 1 
Ye, sure, are sent a blessed boon, 

From kinder worlds afar ; 
For while I look, my heart is all delight : 
Earth has no creatures half so pure and bright. 

From moon nor star we hither flew ; 

The moon doth wane away, — 
The stars, they pale at morning dew ; 

We're children of the day ; 
Nor change, nor night, was ever ours to bear ; 
Eternal light, and love, and joy we share. 

Then sons of light, from Heaven above, 

Some blessed news ye bring. 
Come ye to chant eternal love, 

And tell how angels sing, 
And in your breathing, conscious forms to show, 
How purer forms above live, breathe, and glow ? 

Our parent is a human mind ; 

His winged thoughts are we ; 
To sun nor stars are we confined : 

We pierce the deepest sea. 
Moved by a brother's call, our Father bade 
Us light on earth : and here our flight is stayed, 



Medora, wake ! — nay do not wake ! 
I would not stir that placid brow, 
Nor lift those lids, though light should break 
Warm from the twin blue heavens that lie below. 

Sleep falls on thee, as on the streams 
The summer moon. Touched by its might, 
The soul comes out in loving dreams, 
And wraps thy delicate form in living light. 

Thou art not dead ! — These flowers say 
That thou, though more thou heed'st them not, 
Didst rear them once for him away, 
Then loose them in thy hold like things forgot, 

And lay thee here where thou might'st weep, — 
That Death but hushed thee to repose, 
As mothers tend their infants' sleep, 
And watch their eyelids falter, open, close, — ■ 

That here thy heart hath found release, 
Thy sorrows all are gone away, 
Or touched by something almost peace, 
Like night's last shadows by the gleaming day. 

When he who gave thee form is gone, 
And I within the earth shall lie, 
Thorn still shalt slumber softly on, 
Too fair to live, too beautiful to die. 



The quarry whence thy form majestic sprung, 

Has peopled earth with grace, 
Heroes and Gods that elder bards have sung — 

A bright and peerless race ; 

But from its sleeping veins ne'er rose before 

A shape of loftier name 
Than his who Glory's wreath with meekness wore,- 

The noblest son of Fame ! 

Sheathed is the sword that passion never stained : 

His gaze around is cast, 
As if the joys of Freedom, newly-gained, 

Before his vision passed ; — 

As if a nation's shout of love and pride 

With music filled the air, 
And his calm soul was lifted on the tide 

Of deep and grateful prayer ; — 

As if the crystal mirror of his life 

To fancy sweetly came, 
With scenes of patient toil and noble strife, 

Undimmed bv doubt or shame ; — 

The Statue of Washington. 243 

As if the lofty purpose of his soul 

Expression would betray — 
The high resolve ambition to control, 

And thrust her crown away ! 

Oh, it was well in marble firm and white, 

To carve our hero's form, 
Whose angel guidance was our strength in fight, 

Our star amid the storm ! 

Whose matchless truth has made his name divine, 

And human freedom sure, — 
His country great, his tomb earth's dearest shrine, 

While man and time endure ! 

And it is well to place his image there 

Upon the soil he blest ; 
Let meaner spirits who its counsels share, 

Revere that silent guest ! 

Let us go up with high and sacred love 

To look on his pure brow ; 
And, as with solemn grace, he points above, 

Renew the patriot's vow ! 




The generous hopes of youth 
Are firstlings of our procreant being ; 
Born while the heart is newly seeing 

Great visions of the truth. 

Life's morning glows with fires, 
Reddening the soul with lusty flashes, 
That, ere its noon, are silent ashes 

Of dead dreams and desires. 

He is the highest man, 
Whose dreams die not ; — in whom the ideal, 
Surging for ever, makes life real, 

Ending where it began, 

In visionary deeds ; — 
By plastic will deserted never, 
His life-long joy and sweet endeavor 

To prosper Beauty's seeds. 

'Tis he helps Nature's might, 
Echoing her soul, whether it crieth, 
Or silent speaks ; and when he dieth, 

On Earth there is less light. 

Monody. 245 

Then mourn, my country ! Shed 
Deep tears from thy great lids, and borrow 
Night's gorgeous gloom to deck thy sorrow ; 

Greenough, thy son, is dead. 

A crowned son of Art 
And thee ; lifted by love and duty 
To his high work of marble beauty, 

Coining thereon his heart. 

Quick is grief's shadow sped 
Across the seas to Tuscan mountains, 
Darkening the depths of living fountains 

By Art and Friendship fed. 

That peopled solitude, 
The Studio, where, amid his creatures, 
Broodeth the God, his busy features 

Irradiant with his mood, 

Is orphaned now ; and pale, 
Each sculptured child seems sadly listening 
For the warm look, that came in glistening 

With a fresh morning hail. 

These are his inmost heirs ; 
In them still pulse his heart's best beatings, 
Of soul and thought deep nuptial greetings : 

What most was his, is theirs. 

And they are ours. Our sight 
Grows strong, as, compassing this gifted 
Enmarbled life, we are uplifted : — 

On Earth there is more light. 



'2-9 1938